Responding to recent media hype over a claim by former US Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist Gerald Zirnstein that 70% of ground beef sold in US supermarkets contains ‘pink slime’, the American Meat Institute (AMI) has issued a statement insisting that boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) are both safe and nutritious.
AMI president J Patrick Boyle said: “Some recent media reports created a troubling and inaccurate picture, particularly in their use of the colloquial term ‘pink slime’. The fact is, BLBT is beef. The beef trimmings that are used to make BLBT are absolutely edible... In reality, the BLBT production process simply removes fat and makes the remaining beef more lean and suited to a variety of beef products that satisfy consumers’ desire for leaner foods.”
Boyle defended the use of ammonium hydroxide gas, pointing out that the gas is widely used to destroy bacteria in food products and is always used according to rules under the supervision of USDA food safety inspectors.
He claimed that BLBT was a sustainable product, which enabled processors to recover lean meat that would otherwise be wasted. “Producing BLBT ensures that lean, nutritious, safe beef is not wasted in a world where red meat protein supplies are decreasing while global demand is increasing as population and income grow,” he added.
Zirnstein, who originally coined the term ‘pink slime’ told ABC News last week that the product was “not fresh ground beef” and described its production as “economic fraud”. He claimed that he and fellow USDA scientist Carl Custer had warned the USDA against the product, but were overruled by officials who allegedly had links to the beef industry.
The USDA has subsequently come under fire after US news publication The Daily revealed that it had agreed to buy seven million pounds of BLBT for the US school lunch programme from Beef Products International (BPI).
Food campaigner Bettina Siegal has launched an internet petition to oppose the move, which received 3,600 signatures within two days. Claiming that the ammonia treatment has been proven ineffective in eliminating pathogens, Siegel said: “Even apart from safety concerns, it is simply wrong to feed our children connective tissues and beef scraps that were, in the past, destined for use in pet food and rendering and were not considered fit for human consumption.”
A previous campaign led by UK chef Jamie Oliver led to major US foodservice chains McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell announcing that they would no longer include BLBT in their products.