Health Concerns

Very Low-Grade Beef: USDA Still Buying Pink ‘Slime’ for School Lunches

Mystery meat?
Mystery meat? Photo: aMichiganMom via Flickr

Now that not-so-discriminating fast-food chains like Taco Bell and McDonald’s have sworn off “pink slime” — the terrifying alloy of ground beef scraps, cow connective tissues, and salmonella-slaying chemicals — you’d think the market for the stuff would have dried up completely. But no! Apparently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t above purchasing a staggering 7 million pounds of the stuff — for school lunches. One retired Food Safety Inspection Service microbiologist tells the Daily today, “We originally called it soylent pink,” insisting the product is not safe for consumption. But what might be even more damning to the image of pink slime (besides of course, the name, contents, and basically everything else we’ve ever heard, imagined, or assumed about the stuff) is its shady connection to George Bush the First and friends.

Despite objections from Gerald Zirnstein and Carl Custer, former Food Safety Inspection Service microbiologists quoted throughout the Daily’s story, the USDA approved the safety of pink slime with the strong arm encouragement of former USDA undersecretary Jo Ann Smith, who was appointed by Bush in 1989 after previously serving as president of both the National and Floridian Cattlemen’s Association. Zirnstein claims, “Scientists in D.C. were pressured to approve this stuff with minimal safety approval,” and insists the FSIS ignored findings that pink slime is a “high-risk product.”

A father to a 2-year-old, Zirsetin adds, “you better believe I don’t want him eating pink slime when he starts going to school.” Custer agrees and stresses, “My objection with having it in the schools is that it’s not meat.”

Currently, the USDA plans to purchase 7 million pounds of what is euphemistically labeled “lean beef trimmings,” with the trademarked name “Boneless Lean Beef,” for the nation’s school lunch program, and also admits 6.5 percent of the beef used for last year’s program came from Beef Products Inc., which processes the controversial product before it gets mixed in with actual ground beef, but fails to list questionable ingredients like ammonium hydroxide on its labels.

So for all the posturing of the national school lunch program and its intent to make kids healthier and more fit, the USDA somehow doesn’t see an issue with bringing in a product that’s been condemned by the same company that has turned millions of chickens into McNuggets. Is something wrong with this picture?

Partners in ‘slime” [Daily]

Very Low-Grade Beef: USDA Still Buying Pink ‘Slime’ for School