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Pink Slime - Are You Eating It?

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

I have been eating hamburgers all my life, so have I been eating pink slime? Also, isn't it approved by the USDA, so itís safe?


Beef Eater

Dear Beef eater,

Pink Slime, or as the U.S. beef industry calls it, "lean finely textured beef," was approved as an additive to ground beef in the 1990's by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).


Pink slime is made from what is considered beef waste products or rejects such as connective tissue, excess fat and other trimmings once only used in dog food. This wasted beef must be treated with ammonia gas to kill bacteria because pink slime can be contaminated with salmonella and E. coli.

The term "pink slime" was coined by USDA scientist, Gerald Zirnstein, who was investigating salmonella contamination in packaged ground beef in 2002 at Beef Products, Inc. (makers of the pink slime). Food Safety Inspector microbiologist, Carl Custer, also objected to the use of 'lean finely textured beef,' as filler in ground beef, and called it "soylent pink." Both Zirnstein and Custer do not consider pink slime to be meat and refuse to purchase ground beef that contains it. (David Knowles, "Partners in 'Slime,'", March 5, 2012; Jim Avila, "70 Percent of Ground Beef at Supermarkets Contains 'Pink Slime,'", March 7, 2012)


Although the USDA has approved pink slime as a filler to ground beef, it is banned in Canada and Great Britain. About 70 percent of the ground beef in U.S. contains pink slime, and can be found in supermarkets, fast food restaurants, and school lunch programs. The USDA does not require packaged ground beef to be labeled if it has added lean finely textured beef (aka pink slime).

Pink slime has never been added to ground beef at Costco nor Whole Foods Market. Because of public outcry brought to the attention of consumers by celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, as well as national news investigators, other grocery stores (Safeway and Vons) and some fast food restaurants (McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Burger King) are now going pink slime-free. If unsure, it's best to inquire when purchasing ground beef or hamburger if their product contains pink slime. (Seattle Q13 FOX News, "More supermarkets refuse to sell 'pink slime' in their meat," March 19, 2012; Jim Avila, "Where Can You Get 'Pink Slime'-Free Beef?" March 2012


David Knowles reported that the Undersecretary of Agriculture, Joann Smith, pushed for approval of pink slime. Before being appointed Undersecretary by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, Smith was president of both the Florida Cattlemenís Association and the National Cattlemenís Association. After stepping down from the USDA in 1993, she was appointed to the board of directors of Beef Products, Inc, who makes the pink slime.