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Bedard begins: "Forget the corn dog and pizza quarrels. Healthy school lunch advocates have a bigger problem on their plates: a 7 million-pound order of connective tissue and beef scraps doused in ammonia, set to hit school lunch trays in coming months."

Fast-food chains have stopped using pink slime in hamburgers. (photo:
Fast-food chains have stopped using pink slime in hamburgers. (photo:

Pink Slime: It's What's for Lunch in America's Schools

By Megan Bedard, Take Part

08 March 12


orget the corn dog and pizza quarrels. Healthy school lunch advocates have a bigger problem on their plates: a 7 million-pound order of connective tissue and beef scraps doused in ammonia, set to hit school lunch trays in coming months.

Despite being dropped in December by McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Burger King, the infamous concoction - known as "pink slime" - is still in high demand, thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchase that will keep it on school lunch menus. Yes, keep; it's been there for years and is set to stay.

The substance is smooshed into meat patties and served up as hamburgers, but the meat product is made from parts of cows "normally destined for dog food and rendering," reports The Daily.

Microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein and retired microbiologist Carl Custer say the goop is "a high risk product." The two conducted a study on pink slime in the late '90s, when JoAnn Smith - known for being buddy-buddy with the beef industry - was serving as undersecretary for the George H.W. Bush administration. (Smith was president of both the Florida Cattlemen’s Association and the National Cattlemen’s Association). At the time, Custer sounded the alarms for food-safety concerns, but the USDA ignored his warnings, Custer says, soliciting a second assessment of the slime's safety.

Because the meat scraps are particularly vulnerable to contamination, South Dakota company Beef Products, Inc. came up with the idea to soak the stuff in ammonia to kill E. coli and salmonella in 2001. The USDA stamped it with approval and shortly thereafter, the slime was available for public consumption.

Years later, Zirnstein feels the same as he did a decade ago. Speaking of his two-year-old son, he told The Daily, " better believe I don’t want him eating pink slime when he starts going to school."

But skeptics aren't stopping the pink slime from oozing its way through public schools. The USDA has purchased a sizeable order - 1.5 million more pounds than it bought in 2009 for schools - from Beef Product, Inc.

As for safety concerns? In 2009, The New York Times reported that government and industry records showed dozens of incidences of E. coli and salmonella pathogens in schools' Beef Products meat, despite added ammonia.

At that time, Times reporter Michael Moss said that "since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated." The meat never reached lunch room trays, but that hasn't squelched concerns about whether the stuff is fit for school lunch.

For Zirstein, it's a matter of public deceit on what constitutes real food.

"They've taken a processed product [ammonia], without labeling it, and added it to raw ground beef," Zirnstein told The Daily. "Science is the truth, and pink slime at this point in time is a fraudulent lie."

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+27 # WFO 2012-03-08 17:29
The pic is actually McDonald's Chicken McNugget's in raw form.

Food safety in the US has gone to hell. Labeling of GMO's or processing agents is non-existent. The head of the FDA is a former Monsanto executive.

I make my daughter's lunch everyday, I will not let her eat school food, period.
+11 # Rick Levy 2012-03-08 20:18
Do they still make lunch boxes?
+2 # Adoregon 2012-03-10 13:08
The real question is...

When will "mainstream" Americans think twice (or three times) about eating dead flesh and assorted offal?

Especially the flesh of dead mammals who are our kin in so many ways...

At what point does it cease to matter whether the mammal is a cow, pig, sheep, goat, horse, dog or human? We kill 'em all.

If we are what we eat, there are some strange creatures in human form prowling these United States.

Think it through.
+16 # pernsey 2012-03-08 21:49
This is so y parents with children in school, make their lunches! Then they wonder why so many kids have ADD and ADHD and so many other conditions. The government and schools dont really care about your children and what they eat, parents are the only thing between them eating healthy and eating ammonia soaked slime...its totally gross!!
+10 # leedeegirl 2012-03-08 22:16
that's it ... i am going back to making my son's lunches, even if he IS in high school ... that's DISGUSTING!
+14 # colvictoria 2012-03-08 22:53
and people wonder why kids in public schools don't learn when our government feeds poor kids this inedible mystery meat. Not only are children vaccinated to death with an outrageous vaccination CDC schedule but they are fed this garbage. This is a disgrace. I like the suggestion of making a lunch for our kids everyday. Unfortunately so many poor children depend on these meals as it could be the only meal they get in the day.
To me it just shows a complete disregard to the poor of this nation.The poor have been written off by our government. They get the worst health care,the most backward education system and a grim future in our Military Industrial Complex or the Prison Industrial Complex.
I hope Mrs Obama can stir up some controversy with this news and make some critical changes in the Department of Agriculture so that public school kids (Mrs Obama attended public schools) can receive a decent healthy meal.
+5 # bluepilgrim 2012-03-08 23:14
Also see this article,
+5 # Gringaryan 2012-03-09 08:16
Dear RSN Thanks for your concern re: vitriol. There is no place for this on a forum like RSN's It brings us all down. Re: PINK SLIME. ADD ADHD; Obesity, Autism, diabetes...vari ous mental and emotional illnesses are rampant now. We suffer from the 21st Century version of malnutrition. Shame on the FDA. WE need MORE government protections for our health from BIG BIZ not less.
+7 # qasee 2012-03-09 10:03
I wonder when the FDA will approve Soylent Green?
+7 # tomo 2012-03-09 11:18
Too much of our attitude is: if it makes a buck for someone, it's innocent till proven guilty. If someone can make a profit, let them go ahead till some dreadful result becomes unavoidably evident. The may be "conservative" politics, but it tends not to conserve the things that matter.
+7 # Terrapin 2012-03-09 13:10
"The USDA has purchased a sizeable order - 1.5 million more pounds than it bought in 2009 for schools - from Beef Product, Inc."
The public schools are therefore the dumping ground for this disgusting stuff that has become a P.R. liability to the crap-in-a-sack food industry.
+1 # reiverpacific 2012-03-09 18:56
Considering what a food service small business has to go through to get licensed and especially if they have something they want to bottle, can or otherwise package to sell, this is another example of huge double standards.
I mean SPAM -the alleged meat product mixed, matched and churned out by Hormel, not cyber-junk (but well after-named) doesn't even have an ingredients list on it's cans -wonder what lobbyist pulled that one off? I asked a county FDA inspector why this was and she hadn't a clue -at least she was honest about THAT!
Never mind, it's only yr kids! Suggestion -make them lunch at home to take to school.
+2 # Eliza D 2012-03-10 15:53
It's so ironic and just plain horrifying that we cannot trust the FDA to protect us. As a parent who tries to give my family as much organic food as possible, however, especially after seeing Food Inc., I'm not surprised. I am partnering with a few other parents to grow and trade various homegrown foodstuffs, like people used to do in colonial America. Unfortunately, kids at school laugh at my children's bagged lunches and tease them for not going to McDonalds. When will people wake up?

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