Nutrition News: Pink Slime

by in Food News, Food Safety, April 12, 2012
ground beef
Is there pink slime in this beef?

A microbiologist who worked for the USDA let the cat out of the bag about something the food industry has been doing for years. What’s your take on the food issue everyone’s talking about: pink slime?

What is Pink Slime?
Tiny traces of meat left on beef carcasses are heated, picked, then bathed in ammonia to kill off any bacteria. These meat scraps dubbed “lean finely textured beef” (aka pink slime) are then mixed with ground beef prior to packaging to bulk up portions. Until recently, pink slimed beef was gobbled down by anyone who consumed ground beef from a fast food joint, grocery store or school cafeteria.

The meat industry defends that pink slime is in fact meat. The government says these ammonia-sprayed foods are safe to eat, but that doesn’t make the chemical-treated meat any more appetizing to many consumers.

Controversies
In the wake of this negative publicity, many supermarkets and others in the food industry have publicly outcast pink slime. Meanwhile the company responsible for producing it filed chapter 11 on April 2nd.

Is pink slime as dangerous and disgusting as it sounds? Should it be in our food? There are things to consider on both sides of the issue:

•    Use of pink slime helps keep the cost of beef down.
•    The downfall of pink slime has cost some Americans their jobs.
•    Pink slime-filled meats are currently in school lunches.
•    Until now consumers had no way of knowing if it was in their food or not.

Some of these issues are already being resolved. For example, going forward schools will get to choose whether or not they want to use it.

On the other side of things, maybe we can save money and avoid pink slime at the same time. The USDA’s MyPlate guidelines suggest eating a more plant-based diet; Americans eat currently eat too much red meat. Eating less (pink slime free) ground beef might be a win-win.

Bottom Line: Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food. And even if chemically treated meat is dubbed safe by the government, do you want to eat it?

Tell Us: How do you feel about pink slime?

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Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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