Pink Slime Battle Gaining Steam as Plants Suspend Operations

A few weeks ago, GreenAnswers reported on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s plans to ship 7 million pounds of pink slime to school cafeterias across the country. Since then, things have changed drastically. Recently, the USDA announced that school districts would have the choice of whether or not to use pink slime, and some cities, such as Boston, have banned it in their cafeterias entirely.

Now, the anti-slime bandwagon is on a true roll. Back in January, fast food titans McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell opted to go slime-free, and now, supermarkets are getting in on the fun. Stop & Shop has declared it will no longer use products with pink slime, while fellow food giants Whole Foods, Costco, A&P, and Costco have attested to never selling goods containing the goop.

With demand dwindling down, pink slime producer Beef Products Inc. has been forced to suspend operations at three of its four plants. Closed plant locations include: Garden City, Kansas; Waterloo, Iowa; and Amarillo, Texas. Officials say a plant at the company’s headquarters in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota will continue to run, while head honchos struggle to improve pink slime’s PR.

Those of you not familiar with pink slime, prepare to lose your appetite. Pink slime consists of meat scraps swept from slaughterhouse floors, ground up, and treated with an ammonium hydroxide solution, which is what gives the glop its characteristic pink color. While the ammonium hydroxide kills any pathogens that may be hiding in the meat, it also decomposes to water and ammonia, which is a common ingredient in household cleaners and fertilizers.

In the past, the slime has enjoyed widespread use. It’s been used in ground beef, low-fat hotdogs, lunch meats, meatballs, pepperoni, frozen entrees, canned goods, and even as a leavener in baked goods for nearly two decades. Even worse for grossed-out consumers, a report from MSNBC indicated that 70% of the ground beef consumed in America is processed with pink slime.

However, some health officials have said that despite pink slime’s so-called “yuk factor,” the goop does not pose a risk to consumers. The USDA labels pink slime as “generally recognized as safe,” and spokesman Michael Jarvis has stated that ground beef containing the slime has passed “stringent pathogen testing and [complies] with all applicable food safety regulations.”

Despite the USDA’s confidence in the product, and despite the storm of good news surrounding its removal from the public food sphere, some consumers remain apprehensive.

“It’s definitely reassuring that the slime is starting to disappear,” says a 23-year-old college student who did not wish to be named. “It’s good news, but this isn’t over. You still have to be careful and even then, you wonder what’s in your food. I mean, when the pink slime goes away, what’s going to replace it?”

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