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I am constantly amazed at the reaction by the public to news about food products.  Is it so hard to believe that companies are looking to make a profit at any cost?   So why the dismay when we are alerted to the fact that the government regularly purchases “pink slime” for school lunches?

The only way to protect yourself is to avoid processed foods.  Whole Foods offer the consumer the ability to know what they are eating.  Sure there exist pitfalls to purchasing any item but your odds of having chemicals added to your food decrease tremendously when you focus on Organic, Whole Foods.

“Pink Slime” is essentially a process of extracting beef remnants from fat and trimmings, where pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella are found in markedly higher concentrations, is a cost effective way to increase overall yields — shaving an estimated three cents off the cost of making a pound of ground beef.

This beef product is USDA approved and is a component in the majority of ground beef patties sold in the United States, in which up to 25 percent of the additive beef is used in the final product.

The company that sells ground beef treated with ammonia proclaims their meat mixture is good for America’s schoolchildren, Beef Products Inc. (BPI) made the declaration about its “lean finely textured beef” or LFTB over the weekend to The Daily, which broke the news that the federal government plans to buy ground beef that contains 7 million pounds of the product in the coming year.

“Including LFTB in the national school lunch program’s beef products accomplishes three important goals on behalf of 32 million kids,” BPI spokesman Rich Jochum said. “It 1) improves the nutritional profile, 2) increases the safety of the products and 3) meets the budget parameters that allow the school lunch program to feed kids nationwide every day.”

Critics, though, contend South Dakota-based BPI has made millions off “pink slime” over the past decade, and that its safety and nutritional claims about the treated beef are dubious at best.

“Not only is this product a potential source of killer pathogens if the ammonia levels are not controlled properly, but that the overall protein quality of the beef hamburger is compromised by the inclusion of LFTB,” former US Department of Agriculture microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein said.

The former director of food safety for BPI, Kit Foshee, maintains that the company’s CEO routinely told fast-food companies that the inclusion of treated beef would help kill pathogens when mixed with other ground beef.   “BPI is marketing themselves as a pinnacle of safety,” Foshee said. “It’s all lies. It’s all marketing.”

The New York Times reports that BPI is one of the main suppliers of processed beef filler to fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King — not to mention school lunch and grocery store meat — had been using ammonia as a means of killing E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella.

Yes. Ammonia.

Years ago, Beef Products Inc., figured out a way to process and treat the inedible bits from the carcass — bits that “typically include most of the material from the outer surfaces of the carcass,” the article reports. The processed filler, when mixed into ground beef, is intended to reduce the cost of beef and thus boost profit margins.

However, a considerable amount of dangerous bacteria like salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 is present in the “outer surfaces” such as the skin itself. So Beef Products began to blast its filler product with ammonia to kill the bacteria. Ammonia.

And they’re still doing it.

The only problem was that it tasted terrible, so they apparently began to use less ammonia.

Meanwhile the USDA exempted Beef Products filler from inspection, since the ammonia would do the trick. Do you see where this is headed?

Less ammonia but the same amount of filler means increased traces of pathogens in beef samples — a result that was confirmed by school lunch officials and the New York Times. In other words, too much ammonia and pH levels are too high and the filler is inedible. Not enough and it doesn’t kill the pathogens. But either way, the beef still deliberately contains ammonia.

Again, this is beef filler that’s used in school lunches and the most popular fast food chains in America. As recently as 2004, school lunch beef contained as much as 15% of this ammonia-treated filler as a means of saving a whole three cents per pound.

On several occasions, school lunch officials have suspended the use of Beef Products filler. But only temporarily due to bacteria contamination and not because of ammonia, pH or alkalinity levels. Meanwhile, fast food and grocery store beef continues to contain Beef Products’ ammonia-doused processed whatever.

You won’t find ammonia listed on any labels, by the way, so don’t bother looking. Long ago, the government acquiesced to Beef Products’ request that the ammonia treatment be categorized as a “processing agent” so it doesn’t appear on any consumer labeling.