The decision comes in response to a national online campaign started by Texas mother Bettina Siegel when she found out that the government was planning to buy beef containing LFBT, commonly referred to as ‘pink slime’, to feed school children within its national school lunch programme.
“USDA only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable – including all products containing [LFTB]. However, due to customer demand, the department will be adjusting procurement specifications for the next school year so schools can have additional options in procuring ground beef products. USDA will provide schools with a choice to order product either with or without LFTB,” the Department said.
A number of schools have already announced their intention to stop serving ground beef containing LFTB.
The American Meat Institute (AMI) said it respected USDA’s decision, but reminded consumers that LFTB was “a safe, wholesome and responsible option”.
AMI president J Patrick Boyle said: “It is important to recognize that, while some reports have called LFTB an additive or a filler, these terms are absolutely inaccurate. LFTB is simply a beef product that starts with wholesome, inspected trimmings that result when large carcasses are cut into smaller portions. These trimmings can look much like bacon, where fat and lean meat are intertwined. The processed used to make LFTB removes the intertwined fat from the lean and the result is a 95% lean beef product.”
USDA also re-asserted the safety of LFTB and urged consumers to research science-based information on the quality of the product.
Eldon Roth, founder of LFTB manufacturing firm Beef Products, Inc, agreed with the governent, saying: “As parents and consumers continue to make important decisions about the food they and their children eat, we hope that they listen to credible sources outside media sensationalists and take note of the overwhelming support from the government and scientific community who have routinely testified that our lean beef trimmings are 100% beef and are produced, and tested in a way that makes this food very safe.”
The ‘pink slime’ controversy started last year when UK celebrity chef Jamie Oliver claimed that 70% of America’s ground beef contained LFTB, which is treated with ammonia to make it fit for human consumption.
Since then, a number of fast-food chains, including McDonald’s and Burger King, have announced that they would stop using the controversial product.