Pink slime food safety concerns a ‘gross misunderstanding’ - producer

By Mark Astley

- Last updated on GMT

'Pink slime' is used as a meat filler in products such as sausages, burgers and ground beef.
'Pink slime' is used as a meat filler in products such as sausages, burgers and ground beef.
Food safety concerns surrounding the use of ‘pink slime’ in beef products have come as a result of a “gross-misunderstanding” stemming from sensationalised media coverage, a leading producer has claimed.

Beef Products Inc. (BPI) has shot down claims by two former USDA scientists, turned whistle-blowers, that ‘pink slime’ was approved for consumption for political reasons despite safety concerns.

More than 170,000 people have since signed a petition to ban the product in US schools following claims by Gerald Zirnstein and Colin Custer that they were overruled by USDA bosses after warning about the use of ‘pink slime’ – a term Zirnstein coined.

‘Pink slime’ which is referred in the meat processing industry as either lean beef trimming or finely textured beef,  is made  by processing beef trimmings from larger cut of meat until the lean meat is separated from the fat.

The low-fat, high protein result is then used as a filler in many products in the US including ground (minced) beef, burgers and sausages.

Media hype

“It’s 100% false. People think it makes for a good story,”​ BPI director of food safety and quality assurance Craig Letch told

“Long-story short, the whole situation has been a gross-misunderstanding of the product and the processing measures involved with the product. It has directly stemmed from media-outlets trying to sensationalise and build up hype around the product.”

“It is specifically to do with prior measures which could not ensure the safety of the product. It is nothing to do with the raw material; it is to do with the measures to remove the lean from the fat.”

‘Pink slime’ content in meat products can range from between 10% and 30% - yet producers are not obligated to inform consumers.

Letch added that consumers do not need to be informed that the product is included in another meat product as it is “meat, 100% lean meat.”

In 1991, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) developed a policy for the product. The FSIS determined that because the product was compositionally similar to beef, it may be declared as beef in the ingredients statement of any product where it is used as an ingredient.

‘Pink slime’ petition

The Tell USDA to STOP Using Pink Slime in School Fund​ petition,which currently has more than 170,000 signatures, cited the scientists' claims as an argument for its ban in school.

A letter attached to the petition questions the products’ suitability considering it was formerly “destined for use in pet food and rendering and were not considered fit for human consumption.”

It also cited McDonald’s and Burger King’s discontinued use of ‘pink slime’.

Despite the negative press surrounding the product, figures from across the meat processing, food safety and regulatory sectors have joined forces to support the use of ‘pink slime’ in beef products.

“There have been a lot of people who have seen what’s happening in the processing plants. We have nothing but support from them once they actually see what we do. They are vocal about it and they support us,”​ Letch concluded.

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Posted by Ned Stevens,

Right on Anthony, I could swear I wrote what you said in my sleep... I thought everyone who read the Journal was 100% in support of this.

Let's just suppose that this stuff is SAFE - that's all you hear the supporters saying now. I wonder if some people are really going to change their mind after everyone says that it's SAFE 100 different times? I really could care less about that. I would suppose that eating cow brains, pig feet, etc., is also "safe."

The bottom line is that this stuff is GROSS, and indeed, mere filler to line the producers' pocket. And so we should just keep supporting it because of "the jobs."

And maybe it is 100% beef. You could pluck out a cow's eyeballs, and technically that would be "beef" as it comes from a cow. Again, beside the point...

I'm sorry, but this is big business at its worst. Nothing more than greed. It's a shame that this really didn't come to the public light for what, 30 years? Well, the fact that they got away with this for that long does not make it any better or give them some kind of grandfather rights. They should have always known that what is happening now was a possibility - that the truth would finally come out (that they were doling out low-quality, nasty meat to an unwitting public).

So yeah, they can go ahead and sell it as animal food now, or they can go out of business. But the way they are panicking I think the latter is inevitable, it's just a matter of time.

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I'm so sick of the "pink slime" topic

Posted by Ryan Lopez,

This has been active on LinkedIn Groups and all over even the news. It is hyper media making a bigger deal than what it is..

I really like your site and side of the story.

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Well said

Posted by Sandra,

I heartily agree with everything DeRubeis said on both the subject of pink slime and irradiated foods. The only other thing I would like to add is that I take great offense in the attitude that "consumers do not need to be informed". That statement is included in the above article and I have also read the exact same thing in a statement from the FDA concerning irradiated foods. We are not children and whether the government likes it or not, we have a right to decide these things for ourselves. If a food or a process is safe, hiding it is the best way to cause suspicion. After all, we have plenty of reason not to trust the so-called experts which have been proven wrong time-after-time.

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