The fight over Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), popularly known as “pink slime”, continues this week with a U.S. Representative calling for labeling any beef that contains the product, and a Governor asking schools to continue using the product.
Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the “Requiring Easy and Accurate Labeling of Beef Act (REAL Beef Act) amendment, H.R. 4346, to the Federal Meat Inspection Act, a bill in front of the United States House of Representatives. The bill has 10 co-sponsors, including Rep. Chris Van Holllen (D-MD), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). The bill has been referred to committee.
In a press release obtained by Food Poisoning Bulletin, Rep. Pingree said, “Consumers have made it pretty clear they don’t want this stuff in their food. If a product contains connective tissue and beef scraps and has been treated with ammonia, you ought to be able to know that when you pick it up in the grocery store.”
Pingree stated that the legislation was about choice and transparency. At this time, LFTB can comprise up to 15% of ground beef without requiring a label. Food labels are required to list ingredients, including additives and preservatives, that are used to make the product. LFTB is beef, a food product, so its inclusion on a ground beef label is not legally required at this time. And since ammonium hydroxide is on the FDA’s GRAS list (generally regarded as safe) and is classified as a “processing aid”, not as an additive, it isn’t included on labels.
That same day, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds sent a letter to Iowa school superintendents, asking them to continue to purchase LFTB for school lunches.
The letter said that this product should be included in ground beef as an effort to battle childhood obesity. (Food Poisoning Bulletin calculated the number of calories per serving LFTB actually saves when added to regular ground beef.) The letter reads, in part:
“I am asking you to continue choosing the safe and healthy lean, finely textured beef. By removing this lean product, schools will be forced to serve a fattier, unhealthier product. My goal is to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation over the next 5 years. We will not get there if we take a step backwards by removing lean, finely textured beef.”
LFTB is made when beef trim scraps, which contain fat and connective tissue, are placed in a centrifuge. The beef is spun to separate the lean meat, which would otherwise be lost in processing, from the fat. This results in a product that is 94 to 97% lean beef. The product needs to be specially treated because it may be more contaminated with bacteria than regular ground beef since it’s obtained from areas closer to the hide.
No meat produced by Beef Products, Inc., the originator of the product, has ever been linked to a foodborne illness.