‘Pink slime’ is off the menu in Riverhead

04/05/2012 10:00 AM |

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO | The beef product known as pink slime or lean finely textured beef is put on display last week during a tour of the Beef Products Inc. plant in South Sioux City, Neb., where the product is made.

What’s come to be called “pink slime,” a beef filler that’s grossed out much of America, will no longer be served in Riverhead schools, officials said this week.

But the move doesn’t come with out collateral damage.

Kids, say good-bye to your tacos.

Superintendent Nancy Carney told the News-Review this week that Riverhead schools had to stop serving tacos in order to prevent students from eating any meat that might contain the substance, officially known as lean finely textured beef and popularly referred to “pink slime,”

The meat additive may have made up about 6.5 percent of the total volume of the beef the district had been using to make tacos, Ms. Carney said. But she could not say for certain if the school ever used beef with the filler because the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not identify which shipments contain the product and which don’t.

But school officials weren’t taking any chances and have stopped using government beef altogether as a precaution. The district also will not accept any USDA beef that uses the additive for next year’s school lunch and breakfast programs.

“Although [lean finely textured beef] is safe for consumption, we would rather have products without it,” Ms. Carney said.

The school’s hamburgers and meatballs are not affected by the change in policy because the district buys the pre-formed patties from an outside company that doesn’t mix its beef with the filler product.

Lean finely textured beef is created using beef trimmings that are not discarded, but instead treated with ammonia to kill off bacteria such as E. coli. The filler is then used in ground beef shipments which, according to USDA regulations, can still be labeled “100 percent ground beef.”

In the face of a public outcry about the widespread use of the filler products by supermarkets, restaurants and schools, USDA officials have maintained the beef filler is safe for human consumption, though several national supermarkets and restaurant chains have announced they will no longer sell goods that contain it.

“The process used to produce LFTB is safe and has been used for a very long time,” said Elisabeth Hagen, undersecretary for food safety and inspection service, in a blog post in March. “And adding LFTB to ground beef does not make that ground beef any less safe to consume.”

Still, the USDA has offered to present other options to school districts like Riverhead that prefer to use beef without the additive. Schools will have the option to choose beef with the product or less lean beef that doesn’t include the filler.

Riverhead, along with many other school districts nationwide, are choosing the latter.

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