You Ate Pink Slime. Should You Be Concerned?

by Tom Musbach on March 13, 2012

in Health

The latest food scare — “pink slime” — sounds like something out of a tacky horror film. But most of us have probably eaten plenty of it.

The term refers to a product made from beef scraps and connective tissue that is mixed with ammonium hydroxide to minimize risk for E. coli or salmonella contamination in ground beef. In the past, the product was used mostly for pet food. Now it’s fairly common in burgers.

Three pink burgers on a grill

Could there be another reason this meat is pink?

Pink slime stirs outcry

Public concern over pink slime started after British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver claimed on his “Food Revolution” show that 70% of U.S. ground beef contains meat treated with ammonium hydroxide.  In recent months McDonald’s stopped using the product in its burgers last year, and Taco Bell and Burger King have reportedly followed suit.

The FDA, however, considers pink slime “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS.

Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) intends to buy 7 million pounds of the stuff for the national school lunch program, The Daily reported last week. In response, a petition on hopes to stop the USDA’s plan and save kids from eating the treated meat.

Health risks of pink slime

“If cooked properly, there is no more immediate risk [with beef containing pink slime] than with any other meat,” said Dr. Thomas MD, a physician and expert on JustAnswer. He added there are no known risks that are more specific for children.

His take on potential health problems related to pink slime: “The risk is essentially the same as the American fast food diet in general. It’s mostly non-nutritional protein and fat with too many calories. It’s just not good food.”

Although the ammonia is not a major health risk, Dr. John Torres told USA Today, “The big concern is that this is a chemically processed food; it doesn’t have nearly the nutrients of normal beef.”

Restaurants and grocery stores are not required to label foods that contain the additive.

Chef Oliver told CNN that the only solution for being certain about what’s in your ground meat is to “watch the butcher grind it in front of you.”

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