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Report: CPS May Have Served 'Pink Slime' In School Lunches

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago Public Schools officials say the infamous "pink slime" might have been served to students in school cafeterias, after insisting earlier that no such thing happened.

The Chicago Tribune reports CPS says beef patties served in schools might the chemically-treated product, which is known officially as "lean finely textured beef."

The ground-up meat is treated with ammonia to kill salmonella and E. coli. The bright pink slimy substance is a combination of beef leftovers and connective tissue. It is then blended into ground beef.

Earlier, the CPS categorically denied that "pink slime" was in any of their lunches, and said they had been assured as such by their vendors, the Tribune reported.

But now, CPS says it was serving U.S. Department of Agriculture commodity beef from Don Lee farms of California, and learned that product might contain pink slime, the newspaper reported.

CPS cut ties with Don Lee on March 22, and tossed all the beef supplied by the company – which came to about $540,000 worth, the Tribune reported.

"Pink slime" was the subject of a national outcry after celebrity chef and food activist Jamie Oliver exposed the product in his "Food Revolution" show. The product was also the subject of a critical New York Times report in 2009.

"We're taking a product that would be sold in its cheaper form for dogs," Oliver said on "Food Revolution," as he demonstrated the practice. "After this process, we can give it to humans."

The technique is approved by the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, the USDA bought 7 million pounds of it as part of the national school lunch program.

In the wake of the controversy, McDonald's, Taco Bell and Burger King agreed to stop using the product.

But some defenders have launched a campaign in support of pink slime, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the product is safe, nutritious and low in fat.

"We have a smear campaign going on against a product that is healthy and safe," Branstad said at a news conference earlier this week. "If they get by with this, what other food products are they going to attack next?"

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