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Pro-con: Should 'pink slime' be a concern?

In the past, slaughterhouse waste – fatty scraps and bits of connective tissue left over from beef processing – was used only for pet food or rendering into cooking oil. But in 2001, a South Dakota company called Beef Products Inc. received U.S. Department of Agriculture approval for a new process that extracts fat from the scraps and treats the remaining tissue with ammonium hydroxide to inhibit pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella. The resulting gelatinous pink mass, nicknamed "pink slime" by a horrified government microbiologist, is mixed into ground beef as cheap filler (up to 15 percent in school lunches), reportedly shaving 3 cents off every pound that contains it. These trimmings are also in much of the ground beef sold in this country (as much as 70 percent, according to ABC News). But many consumers have no idea they're eating "pink slime" because it is not disclosed on labeling. The USDA recently announced that starting in the fall, schools will be able to opt out of pink slime. This is a good first step. We also need to insist that pink slime is labeled in grocery-store ground beef. Consumers have a right to know what's in their burgers. – Bettina Siegel, Houston Chronicle

More than 200 local plant workers are paying the price for a burning controversy over what they produced. Beef Products Inc. closed its Holcomb plant because of backlash over production of lean, finely textured beef used in hamburger, sausage, ground beef and other foods. Critics who dubbed the product "pink slime" waged a campaign of misinformation powered by television shows and social media. The unfortunate developments stemmed from controversy over BPI's use of ammonium hydroxide to kill harmful bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella. The process was wrongly depicted, leaving consumers understandably confused and concerned. As a result, fast-food chains and grocers dropped food items with textured beef. Plus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave school districts an out regarding the purchase of the beef, instead of defending the safety of a product that received a governmental stamp of approval. Stepped-up efforts to help consumers better understand a process in place to keep them safe should help undo enough damage, hopefully, to allow the Holcomb facility and BPI as a whole to resume putting out a beef product long considered safe to eat. – Garden City Telegram

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