Mar 07, 2012 2:48 PM GMT
Keep in mind that the USDA is the same organization that wants to enforce a food pyramid, based on industry lobbying more than it is on any science, on school meals.
Pink slime -- that ammonia-treated meat in a bright Pepto-bismol shade -- may have been rejected by fast food joints like McDonald's, Taco Bell and Burger King, but is being brought in by the tons for the nation's school lunch program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is purchasing 7 million pounds of the "slime" for school lunches, The Daily reports. Officially termed "Lean Beef Trimmings," the product is a ground-up combination of beef scraps, cow connective tissues and other beef trimmings that are treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. It's then blended into traditional meat products like ground beef and hamburger patties.
"We originally called it soylent pink," microbiologist Carl Custer, who worked at the Food Safety Inspection Service for 35 years, told The Daily. "We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat."
Custer and microbiologist Gerald Zernstein concluded in a study that the trimmings are a "high risk product," but Zernstein tells The Daily that "scientists in D.C. were pressured to approve this stuff with minimal safety approval" under President George H.W. Bush's administration. The USDA asserts that its ground beef purchases "meet the highest standard for food safety."
Controversy surrounding "pink slime" stems from various safety concerns, particularly dangers associated with ammonium hydroxide, which can both be harmful to eat and has potential to turn into ammonium nitrate -- a common component in homemade bombs, according to MSNBC. It's also used in household cleaners and fertilizers.