Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Three Hamburger Giants Ban the Use of "Pink Slime"

Photo courtesy: theimpulsivebuy/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I have done several blogs on the evils of fast food. McDonald's has long been a favourite target of mine. From using eggs from battery hens (cruelty) to serving ordinance changes in Santa Clara, CA these food giants have a lot to answer for.

And who can forget the blog about a McHappy meal left on an office shelf for one year that didn't look much different one year later than the day it was shelved. Let's move on to the artist who bought 10 hamburgers and proceed to "paint" a giant picture of the Mona Lisa using only the grease from the patties. You'd think that would be enough; but, we have pink slime.

Bolivia has caused McDonald's to close all its restaurants in their country. Bolivians believe that food shows how much you love and respect your family and friends. Food is never cooked "fast" - it's a sign of disrespect to the community. What an enlightened attitude. Good on Bolivia!

Now I have discovered yet another way these corporations destroy our health while picking our pockets. Read on to find out about "pink slime" an integral ingredient in those burger patties the world wolfs down at an alarming rate. There are a few other gross ingredients that will also be outed here. If this doesn't swear you off fast food burgers for life then the pink slime has already affected your brain cells; and, there may be no help.

It’s been a rough year for ammoniated beef. It’s a fancy name for a scary practice cooked up by Beef Products Inc, a company that saw sales plummet by 25 percent this year due to the general public responding to questionable meat processing practices. And most recently, the decision by Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Burger King to stop use of the industry named "pink slime." Pink Slime? This can't be good.

Food Safety News reported on the process:
Beef Products Inc. uses an innovative process to turn fatty beef trimmings, which used to go mainly into pet food and other byproducts, into hamburger filler. Because the trimmings are at risk for E. coli or Salmonella contamination, the company adds a mixture of ammonia and water (ammonium hydroxide) to kill bacteria.

It’s been called “pink slime" by none other than the USDA. It behooves me to ask at this point: If the USDA (who are supposed to be watching out for the public health) called it pink slime, why in the world did they ever approve it?

The New York Times reports that a "[USDA] microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein, called the processed beef "pink slime" in a 2002 e-mail message to colleagues and said, “I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling.”

More and more people learned about the process from the popular movie Food, Inc. And then there was its appearance on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. “[Oliver] called the "clever scientific process" shocking and a breach of consumer trust.” Especially considering that according to The New York Times, the federal school lunch program used 5.5 million pounds of ammoniated beef in 2008. These are our children, our future. Why are we not providing them with nurishing, body-building fuel so they can develop to their fullest potential? After all, these are people who will grow up to rule the world; and, my pension.

Apparently all the bad press eventually took its toll and at the end of 2011 three mega-chains: Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Burger King all announced that they would be discontinuing use of the product.

Both McDonald's and Burger King claim that the move isn't in reaction to all the bad publicity (of course, not)and Taco Bell gave no comment (at least, they didn't lie) on the matter. But whatever the reason, it comes not a moment too soon.

Ammoniated meat became the dirty little secret of the meat industry because it was excluded from recalls and random testing because the ammonia treatment was supposed to make contamination much less likely. The only problem was it didn't work.

The New York Times reports of specific problems with the beef in lunchrooms:

[G]overnment and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the U.S.D.A. about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays.

Even worse, ammonia isn't listed on any ingredient labels because it's considered a "processing agent" even though it's completely misleading to think that it doesn't end up in the final product. How fraudulent is this?

This is proof positive that the public does care about what they're putting into their bodies especially when the facts come to light. And it goes to show that truth in labeling could mean the end to other questionable practices like genetically modified ingredients and meat glue, for example.


Mary Garland said...

I for one, will no longer buy hamburger, from markets who sell meat with pink slime. How very disgusting! Mary, from Bakersfield, CA

Pippa said...

Good for you, Mary, your body will thank you. It's amazing what is allowed to be added to food in the name of the almight dollar, isn't it? I no longer believe these agencies are out to protect me and the billions of other little people out there.