Thursday, November 07, 2013

Now You'll Know When You're Eating Slime

Last year there was a lot of concern about "pink slime" that was being used in hamburger meat.  The fatty parts of beef are "washed" in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger.  In defense of the process, accounts reported that it had been done for years with no harmful effects.  Oh, that makes me feel so much better.  Now, Cargill doesn't say they are going to stop making pink slime, but they are going to tell consumers when they put it in a product.  So watch out for "finely textured beef"whenever you buy beef products.

After Public Outcry, Cargill Says It Will Label Products Made With a Beef Binder
Published: November 5, 2013 in the NY Times

On a day when consumers in Washington State were voting on whether to 
require food companies to label products containing genetically engineered 
ingredients, Cargill announced that it would begin labeling packages of 
ground beef containing what is colloquially known as pink slime.

Pink slime, or what the beef industry prefers to call “finely textured beef,” is made from beef trimmings left over after the processing of higher-quality cuts of meat that is washed in citric acid or ammonia to kill contaminates. It became the stuff of consumer nightmares last year after an ABC News report exposed its widespread use as a binder in ground beef, and companies from Kroger and Safeway to McDonald’s scrambled to drop it from their shelves and products.

“Our research shows that consumers believe ground beef products containing finely textured beef should be clearly labeled,” John Keating, president of Cargill’s beef operations, said in a statement.  “We’ve listened to the public, as well as our customers, and that is why today we are declaring our commitment to labeling finely textured beef.”

Cargill said it had spent 18 months researching consumer attitudes toward pink slime. The company has created a website,, with information for consumers about its contents, how it is made and what products it can be found in.

Michael Martin, a spokesman for Cargill, noted that not all of its ground beef products contained the binder. It will label those that do, including its Excel brand and the brand Our Certified Ground Beef, starting in the spring, he said. Another company that processes finely textured meat, Beef Products, has sued ABC News for defamation.

Consumer advocates by and large favored better labeling of beef content, even though many of them suggested the furor over the filler was overblown. “This is a good minimum step,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director at Food and Water Watch, which works to promote food safety and sustainability.
But Ms. Lovera said that despite assurances from the Agriculture Department that finely textured meat was safe to eat, she continued to have questions about whether the processes used to protect it from contamination work.

“These meat scraps are prone to contamination,” she said. “Is what they’re doing to clean it enough?”
Cargill does not, however, want to label its products as containing genetically engineered ingredients and is among the food companies that have contributed to fight the labeling initiative in Washington State. Results of that vote will not be known until mail-in ballots are counted.

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