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'Pink Slime' eliminated from fast food, going to school lunches

10:19 PM, Mar 7, 2012   |    comments
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture told "The Daily" online newspaper that it's buying 7 million more pounds of the "slime" for school lunch programs across the country.

"All USDA ground beef purchases for the National School Lunch Program must meet the highest standards for food safety," the USDA said in a statement to "The Daily." "This includes stringent pathogen testing and compliance with all applicable food safety regulations. USDA would only allow products into commerce or especially into schools that we have confidence are safe."

The "slime" consists of beef by-products: cow intestines, connective tissue and other parts that are not used in traditional beef cuts.

Those parts are more susceptible to E. coli and salmonella contamination, so the last ingredient to the "pink slime" is ammonium hydroxide, which kills that bacteria.

McDonald's, Taco Bell and Burger King all decided in January they would stop using the "pink slime" in their food after pressure from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

We may still eat it and not even know it. The FDA considers ammonia "a processing agent," so it's not required to be listed on any food label.

9Health Reporter Dr. John Torres says the ammonia does not cause a major health risk to our bodies. Dr. John is more concerned about the possible E. coli and salmonella that could still exist in the beef by-products, even after the chemical treatment. He also adds that the by-products used do not have the same nutritional value as pure ground beef.

"The big concern is that this is a chemically processed food, it doesn't have nearly the nutrients of normal beef," Dr. John said. "It's one of those things, 'Do I want my child to have this?' On a short-term, moderate basis: maybe. On a long-term basis: no."

Dr. John says he's a big advocate of being a "label-reader," but that only works if the ingredients are actually required to be on the label.

"I want to know about that and that's probably the main thing, having them explain to us how much they're going to put in the food and how long they're going to use this in our food system and how much the kids are actually going to get during the school day," Dr. John said.

The plant that produces the "slime," Beef Products Inc., estimates its ammonia-based product is used in 70 percent of the ground beef sold in the United States. That's expected to decrease significantly with the recent boycott from fast food chains.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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