"Lean beef trimmings” is the official name of a product by Beef Products Inc. of ground-up connective tissue and beef scraps. The mixture is treated with ammonia hydroxide to kill salmonella and E. coli and often added to ground beef (hamburger).
A December 2009 article in the New York (NY) Times, “Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned” by Michael Moss, popularized the issue and the “pink slime” nickname for the first time:
“Another department 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.’”
Wikipedia: Pink slime
Pink slime is a pejorative term, coined by Dr. Gerald Zirnstein, for boneless lean beef trimmings or similar products. The product is sold by a number The lean beef sold by BPI has become known for increasing the pH of the beef trimmings by adding ammonium hydroxide to remove pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella, while the Cargill product uses antimicrobial treatments that lower the pH. This beef product is USDA-approved and is a component (typically less than 25 percent) of a majority of ground beef in the United States.
The typical beef production process results in beef trimmings, consisting of fat and meat, that frequently had been cooked down to recover the oils from the trim because it was not profitable to otherwise separate the meat from the trimmings. However, today much of these beef trimmings are sent as USDA-approved cuts of meat to special separation plants, where centrifuges separate the beef from the fat.
The production process was pioneered by Eldon Roth, who in the 1980s founded Beef Products Inc., to produce frozen beef. In the 1990s, in the wake of public health concerns over pathogenic E. coli in beef, Roth developed a process to use a puff of ammonia gas to raise the pH and kill any pathogens that may be found in beef trimmings purchased from other meat production houses.
Nancy Donley, president of Safe Tables Our Priority, Carol Tucker Foreman of the Consumer Federation of America’s Food Safety Institute, and other food safety experts support the technology-based approach to food safety.
Food safety experts in 2011 acknowledged the role of such processes in protecting the United States’ food supply against events such as the European E. Coli outbreak.
On December 24th, 2011, McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell announced they would discontinue the use of Pink Slime in their products
New York (NY) Times
Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned
By MICHAEL MOSS
Published: December 30, 2009
Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia.
The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The trimmings were particularly susceptible to contamination, but a study commissioned by the company showed that the ammonia process would kill E. coli as well as salmonella.
Carl S. Custer, a former U.S.D.A. microbiologist, said he and other scientists were concerned that the department had approved the treated beef for sale without obtaining independent validation of the potential safety risk. Another department 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.”
Food Safety News
NYT Uncovers ‘Hamburger’ Secret
by Dan Flynn | Jan 01, 2010
Fatty slaughterhouse trimmings that previously could be used only for pet food or for making cooking oil are now being treated with an ammonia bath that produces a “pink slime” that is being used to make a treated product being sold as “hamburger” throughout the United States.
In a report that was difficult for some to read, the New York Times yesterday told the story of how a little known South Dakota company and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service since 2001 have worked together to allow bacteria-killing ammonia to be used as a “processing agent” to make a mash that is allowed to be used in hamburger without labeling or public warnings.
2 Aug 2010 6:59 PM
Q. Dear Umbra,
Is there a list of companies that do or don’t use “Pink Slime” in their ground meat? I am interested in both restaurants and grocery stores.
A. Dearest Anne,
Let’s start with a definition. “Pink slime” is the nickname earned by a formerly inedible byproduct of the beef industry. Once used in pet food, it’s now a cheap additive in ground beef.
Grist’s Tom Philpott explains pink slime this way: it’s “the cheapest, least desirable beef on offer — fatty sweepings from the slaughterhouse floor, which are notoriously rife with pathogens like E. coli 0157 and antibiotic-resistant salmonella. (Beef Products, Inc. or BPI) sends the scraps through a series of machines, grinds them into a paste, separates out the fat, and laces the substance with ammonia to kill pathogens.”
Despite the ammonia, pink slime has had a number of contamination issues. Another thing to have a beef with is pink slime’s official name; the company that makes it misleadingly calls it “Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings.”
Partners in ‘slime’
Feds keep buying ammonia-treated ground beef for school lunches
By David Knowles
Monday, March 5, 2012
For retired microbiologist Carl Custer, a 35-year veteran of the Food Safety Inspection Service, the idea of mixing in BPI’s Lean Beef Trimmings into more nutritious, pure ground beef was itself problematic.
“We originally called it soylent pink,” Custer 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 said he first encountered the product — which gained fame recently as “pink slime” in part due to the efforts of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver — back in the late 1990s. Despite voicing his concerns to other officials at the food inspection service, however, the USDA ruled that Lean Beef Trimmings were safe.
Mar 7, 2012 7:52pm
70 Percent of Ground Beef at Supermarkets Contains ‘Pink Slime’
By Jim Avila
Gerald Zirnstein grinds his own hamburger these days. Why? Because this former United States Department of Agriculture scientist and, now, whistleblower, knows that 70 percent of the ground beef we buy at the supermarket contains something he calls “pink slime.”
“Pink slime” is beef trimmings. Once only used in dog food and cooking oil, the trimmings are now sprayed with ammonia so they are safe to eat and added to most ground beef as a cheaper filler.
‘Pink slime:’ Combo of connective tissue, scraps hidden in your kids’ lunch
Published March 08, 2012
Fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell have recently dropped the ‘pink slime’ from their beef – but schools across the country are still serving it, The Daily reported.
The term ‘pink slime’ was first coined in 2002 by Food Safety Inspection Service microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein, who toured a Beef Products Inc. production facility. Zirnstein later emailed his colleagues and told them he did not “consider the stuff to be ground beef,” according to the online news site.
Pink slime is a mix of ground-up connective tissue and beef scraps that are normally meant for dog food. BPI’s Lean Beef Trimmings are then treated with ammonia hydroxide to kill salmonella and E. coli, and mixed into ground beef or hamburger.
New York City • Food/Drink • (0) Comments • Thursday, March 08, 2012 • Permalink