Former food inspectors are angry that “pink slime” is still used in school lunch beef

If "mystery meat" is on the menu in the cafeteria today, watch out. Pink slime, a controversial meat filler, is still used in school lunch beef.  Two microbiologists who used to work for the Food Safety Inspection Service told The Daily today that they are unhappy with the US Department of Agriculture for continuing to allow the filler in schools.

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Pink slime is made from left over pieces of a cow that aren't traditionally eaten. These scraps are more likely to contain harmful bacteria such as E. coli. To kill the bacteria, beef companies mix the scraps with ammonium hydroxide. But use of ammonium hydroxide is also controversial because the chemical may be harmful to eat. It is also used in fertilizers, household cleaners and explosives, MSNBC reported. And a New York Times investigation found that E. coli was still present in ammonia-treated meat. 

Microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein coined the term "pink slime" after touring a facility that makes processed beef in 2002.

In January, McDonald's announced that it had phased the filler out of its beef products, the Daily Mail reported. Taco Bell and Burger King have also stopped using the the filler. But the substance remains legal. 

“Scientists in D.C. were pressured to approve this stuff with minimal safety approval,” Zirnstein told The Daily. 

Retired microbiologist Carl Custer, a 35-year veteran of the Food Safety Inspection Service, conducted a study with Zirnstein on pink slime. They found that it was a high-risk product, The Daily said. 

Yet the USDA plans to buy 7 million pounds of Lean Beef Trimmings, which uses the filler, for the national school lunch program. “My objection with having it in the schools is that it’s not meat,” Custer told The Daily today. 

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