Report: USDA school lunch meat contains "pink slime"

CBS

(CBS News) McDonald's and other fast food chains may have gotten rid of "pink slime" from its burgers, but the gooey sounding chemical treatment that removes bacteria from meat is popping up elsewhere: Kids' school lunches.

The Daily reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to buy 7 million pounds of "Lean Beef Trimmings," what many dub pink slime, from Beef Products International (BPI) for the nation's school lunch programs. Though the USDA said in a statement that all meat "meet(s) the highest standard for food safety," many have decried the use of the beef item, including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

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"The USDA-AMS [Agricultural Marketing Service] does allow for the inclusion of BPI Boneless Lean Beef in the ground beef they procure for all their federal food programs and, according to federal labeling requirements, it is not a raw material that is uniquely labeled," Amy Bell, spokeswoman for the California Department of Education Food Distribution Program, told The Daily in an email.

The USDA says that no more than 15 percent of each serving will consist of pink slime, MSNBC reported. Bell noted it is hard to tell from a finished product if the processed meat byproduct is included, making it hard for parents, students and consumers to discern for themselves.

The USDA could not be reached for comment by HealthPop.

Not many people are happy with this news, including microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein. He is widely credited for coming up with the term "pink slime" to describe the ammonia hydroxide-doused meat products salvaged from the scraps of slaughterhouses.

"I have a 2-year-old son," microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein told The Daily. "And you better believe I don't want him eating pink slime when he starts going to school."

"They've taken a processed product, without labeling it, and added it to raw ground beef," Zirnstein said.

According to the documentary "Food, Inc.", an executive with BPI said that the process helped lessen the incidents of E.coli, making the food safe. As of 2008, he claimed that the product is in 70 percent of hamburgers. He hoped in five years -- 2012 -- he expected pink slime to be in all patties.

In 2009, the New York Times wrote an expose on pink slime, saying that between 2005 and 2009 the product tested positive for salmonella four times higher than traditional burger ground beef. Moss added that the reason the USDA used the byproduct was because it "shaved about 3 cents off the cost of making a pound of ground beef."

Healthpop reported last month that McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell pledged to stop using the treated meat.

Food blogger Bettina Elias Siegel, known for her website The Lunch Tray, has started an online petition to stop the USDA from using the product in schools. The Change.org petition has already received well over 5,500 signatures in its first day.

Siegel told MSNBC, "We should step back and say, 'Why would we feed this to our kid?"

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