When the slime hits the fan, a burger loving nation recoils

Posted by
March 15, 2012

To borrow a term used in the movie “Ghostbusters,” we’ve been”slimed.” Only in this case, we’re not talking about some sort of otherworldly ooze, but rather a cheap and kind of creepy-sounding byproduct of butchering that rates as one of the most flagrant and disagreeable examples of food identity theft.

It’s something, in fact,  that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been talking about it for some time, McDonald’s got rid of only last year, and that today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to announce that schools participating in the federal school lunch program will be allowed to opt out of using.

It’s “pink slime,” the term used to describe mechanically separated beef scraps and connective tissue treated with ammonia hydroxide to kill pathogens. And while its presence in the majority of our hamburgers was hardly a secret,  the fact that it’s used in a reported 70 percent of ground beef and served up in school lunches to the tune of an expected seven million pounds this year has now hit the media fan big-time, much to the consternation of consumers, parents and food retailers alike. It’s enough to even make Wimpy wince.

Among those thoroughly disgusted by this revolting disclosure, which was recently the subject of a special investigation on on ABC World News,  are Houston blogger Bettina Siegel, who writes “The Lunch Tray,” a blog devoted to “kids and food.”  At the beginning of March she launched a change.org petition requesting that the USDA put an end to pink slime in the school lunch program, which has so far generated over 200,000 signatures.

“Even apart from safety concerns, it is simply wrong to feed our children connective tissues and beef scraps that were, in the past, destined for use in pet food and rendering and were not considered fit for human consumption.” says Siegel.

Siegel joins chef Jamie Oliver, who has been conducting  pink slime demos (putting beef scrap in a washing machine and then soaking it in ammonia and water) and is credited with getting McDonalds and Burger King to go slime free.

“Everything about this process to me is about no respect for food or people or children. I want to know when I’m eating this stuff and I want it clearly labeled,” says Oliver.

Ground beef containing the filler is not required to have any labeling indicating the slime additive is present,  so “the only way you can use ground beef,” says Oliver, “is by watching the butcher grind it in front of you.”

The manufacturer of pink slime, Beef Products, Inc., is not taking this attack lightly and has been fighting back with a bizarre web site with an equally odd name, “Pink slime is a myth” (which, aptly enough, is done up in pink). The company prefers the filler be referred to as “lean finely textured beef,” and features the “top 7 myths of pink slime,” on the site (number one being that the popular media photo used is apparently of “chicken slime” and not their “pink” product).

If you haven’t gone vegetarian yet, maybe now is a good time.

Give the FDA your opinion on the “great corn scam” petition while you still can!

The docket remains open at the FDA, so you still have the opportunity to voice your opinion on the 2010 petition by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar.”

Of course the CRA is taking advantage of the FDA’s slow process to keep giving us the “corn sugar” message, but you can take advantage of this too – by being sure to click here and convey your comments to the FDA. You can copy and paste some sample messages from that page, or write one of your own.

A quick look at some of the submissions online shows that it’s clear the public isn’t fooled by what the CRA is doing. Here are a few examples:

“Please, FDA, the term “corn sugar” is clearly an attempt to confuse people who now know how harmful high fructose corn syrup is to their health. We, the people of the United States, demand that you stand up to the corporate powers and represent us, and not them.”

“…how can changing the name of something known as High Fructose Corn Syrup to ‘Corn Sugar’ possibly help clarify what it is? The ‘corn sugar sham’ as it is called has shown again how the FDA rolls over and plays dead on command from big business. Shame on you! You need to start working for the people, not the big business interests.”

“I go out of my way to avoid high fructose corn syrup. Now the industry wants to change the name to corn sugar to dupe consumers. This is not acceptable! HFCS is man made, not a naturally occurring substance. It has harmful effects on the human body. Rather than a name change, it SHOULD BE OUTLAWED!”

The agency has posted over 1,900 public submissions online, which is well less than half the number actually sent in. But where the FDA is concerned, there is power in numbers, so every comment counts! Stand up for truth in labeling and tell the CRA that HFCS is no more “corn sugar” than “pink slime” is “meat.”