According to public reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is planning to buy 7 million pounds of beef byproducts and serve it up in the nation’s federally-funded school lunch program. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is urging the Secretary of the USDA to end any transfer of products containing so-called “pink slime” to public schools, re-evaluate its process for approving its use and require the labeling of products that contain it so consumers can make informed choices.

Menendez explains, “At a time when we are encouraging our kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, it seems to me that a product dubbed, ‘pink slime’ has no place in our children’s school lunches.”

In a letter fired off to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Menendez writes: “The leftover scraps are treated with ammonia because they come from parts of the cow, often the hide, with high exposure to fecal matter. Despite the addition of ammonia, there have been dozens of cases of pathogens infecting the treated mixture. These troubling reports cast doubt on the USDA’s assertion that this process is perfectly safe. In addition, there is little question that American consumers are being misled when they purchase what they believe is 100 percent ground beef.  That’s because the filler contains mostly connective tissue and other non-muscle products which are less nutritious than pure beef.”


The U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer schools choice in ground beef buys amid growing concern over an ammonia-treated filler critics call "pink slime."

Under the change to be announced Thursday, schools will be able to choose between beef patties made with the filler or bulk ground beef without it. The policy will affect food at schools this fall because of existing contracts.

A USDA official with knowledge of the decision says the agency wanted to be transparent and school districts wanted choices. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement.

The USDA buys about a fifth of the food served in schools.

The controversy centers on a processed ingredient common in ground beef that is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)