The US meat industry has hit back the claims that ammonia-treated boneless lean beef trimmings - so called "pink slime" - are harmful to health.
Responding to recent media hype over a statement by former US Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist Gerald Zirnstein that 70% of ground beef sold in US supermarkets contains "pink slime", the American Meat Institute (AMI) has issued a statement insisting that boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) are both safe and nutritious.
AMI president J. Patrick Boyle defended the use of ammonium hydroxide gas, pointing out that the gas is widely used to destroy bacteria in several food products and is always used under the supervision of USDA food safety inspectors. He added that BLBT was a sustainable product, which enabled processors to recover lean meat that would otherwise be wasted.
Zirnstein, who originally introduced the term "pink slime" told ABC News last week that the product was "not fresh ground beef" and described its production as "economic fraud". He claimed that he and fellow USDA scientist Carl Custer had warned the USDA against the product, but were overruled by officials who allegedly had links to the beef industry.
The USDA has subsequently come under fire after US news publication The Daily revealed that it had agreed to buy 7 mil. pounds of BLBT for the US school lunch programme from Beef Products International (BPI).
A previous campaign led by UK chef Jamie Oliver led to major US foodservice chains McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell announcing that they would no longer include BLBT in their products.
Source: American Meat Institute