Reading time: 1500 words, 3.5 to 6 minutes
Based on the stories below, Americans might want to think twice about buying hamburger at the store. Canadians might want to think twice about eating American hamburger.
The good news for Canadians is that MacDonald’s hamburger no longer contains it but it once did according to the Macleans story below. The third story below confirms that Canadian hamburger doesn’t contain “Pink Slime” but I would still be leery about buying prepackaged hamburger in the round tubes that look like small logs. And, since Canada does import American beef, always look at the label. If it says Made in Canada or Produced in Canada it should be safe but I’d be leery of any other wording such as “prepared for” a Canadian company.
March 8, 2012
70 Percent of Ground Beef at Supermarkets Contains ‘Pink Slime’
Black Listed News March 8, 2012
To see the ABC news story, cut & paste the link below.
Gerald Zirnstein grinds his own hamburger these days. Why? Because this former United States Department of Agriculture scientist and, now, whistleblower, knows that 70 percent of the ground beef we buy at the supermarket contains something he calls “pink slime.”
“Pink slime” is beef trimmings. Once only used in dog food and cooking oil, the trimmings are now sprayed with ammonia so they are safe to eat and added to most ground beef as a cheaper filler.
It was Zirnstein who, in an USDA memo, first coined the term “pink slime” and is now coming forward to say he won’t buy it.
“It’s economic fraud,” he told ABC News. “It’s not fresh ground beef. … It’s a cheap substitute being added in.”
Zirnstein and his fellow USDA scientist, Carl Custer, both warned against using what the industry calls “lean finely textured beef,” widely known now as “pink slime,” but their government bosses overruled them.
If you have questions about “pink slime,” email us at ABC.WorldNews@abc.com.
According to Custer, the product is not really beef, but “a salvage product … fat that had been heated at a low temperature and the excess fat spun out.”
The “pink slime” is made by gathering waste trimmings, simmering them at low heat so the fat separates easily from the muscle, and spinning the trimmings using a centrifuge to complete the separation. Next, the mixture is sent through pipes where it is sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. The process is completed by packaging the meat into bricks. Then, it is frozen and shipped to grocery stores and meat packers, where it is added to most ground beef.
The “pink slime” does not have to appear on the label because, over objections of its own scientists, USDA officials with links to the beef industry labeled it meat.
“The under secretary said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Custer told ABC News.
ABC News has learned the woman who made the decision to OK the mix is a former undersecretary of agriculture, Joann Smith. It was a call that led to hundred of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc., the makers of pink slime.
When Smith stepped down from the USDA in 1993, BPI’s principal major supplier appointed her to its board of directors, where she made at least $1.2 million over 17 years.
Smith did not return ABC News’ calls for comment and BPI said it had nothing to do with her appointment. The USDA said while her appointment was legal at the time, under current ethics rules Smith could not have immediately joined the board
‘Pink slime’ vanquished from U.S. McDonald’s burgers
“Fatty beef trimmings” and other animal byproducts will no longer be used by the chainMacleans by Alex Ballingall on Friday, January 27, 2012 11:33am
by Alex Ballingall on Friday, January 27, 2012 11:33am
Walk into an American McDonald’s restaurant, and you’re going to have to deal with the burbling shame associated with eating greasy fast food and guzzling back pop in our age of health food fanaticism. But at least now, thanks largely to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver—the Naked Chef your mom has been raving about—you won’t have to worry about ingesting chemical soaked “pink slime.”
Don’t know what “pink slime” is? It’s what Oliver and other good food advocates like Food Safety News call the slurry of “fattty beef trimmings” and other animal byproducts that are mashed up for use in pet foods and, until recently, McDonald’s hamburgers. Because the “trimmings” are prone to go bad and spawn horrific bacteria like e. coli, the pink slime meat is paired with ammonia hydroxide, a chemical preservative typically found in household cleaning products.
Apparently, people have known about this for some time. In a 2002 email to colleagues, U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein said: “I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling.”
The “pink slime” is made for American fast food chains by a company called Beef Products, Ltd. They didn’t have to label it as an ingredient because the chemical is considered a processing agent. In light of the bad press, Beef Products had a bad year, with sales dropping 25 per cent. And alongside McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King also pulled the “pink slime” from their beef products recently.
But Canadians need not worry—at least when devouring their Big Macs. The Canadian branch of the fast food chain gets its beef from Cargill, which told the National Post their burgers are nothing but salt, pepper and beef.
Does Canadian Ground Beef Use Ammonia?
Did you see the first couple episodes of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution second season? The one set in Los Angeles (LA)? I did. They scared the snot out of me. The part about ground beef, or “pink slime” especially gave me the heeby jeebies. In a word, ewww.
Living in Canada, as I do most of the time these days, I decided to set about seeing if we had similar worries up here. I searched. I googled. I am pretty good at online research but nothing was coming up. References to the question did – Do they use ammonia for treating beef in Canada? Plenty of people asked the same, even four years ago, but nobody had the answer. Nerd that I am for facts I decided to try to get the answer from the horse’s, err, COW’S mouth.
The Canadian Beef authority appears to be made up of or part of The Beef Information Centre (BIC) which is “the Beef Market Development division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association” and can be found via beefinfo.org. They had a question form so I filled it. It was answered by their resident “Kitchen Expert” (a Home Economist – they have degrees in that??) who told me the following:
“Canada has strong processes in place that ensure Canadian beef is a safe and nutritious part of a balanced diet. …In Canada we do not use ammonia in ground beef. It has not been approved for use in packing plants by Health Canada. However, various forms of ammonium salts are approved for use in some foods in Canada and it has been used in a number of foods for centuries such as ammonia cookies.
Ammonia is commonly found in nature and also produced in the human body as a building block for proteins. As well, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) says that ammonium hydroxide (which is essentially a solution of ammonia in water) can be used in over 60 food categories
This is an international expert committee that provides advice to the FAO/WHO Its use is approved in the United States by the FDA.
Ground beef is made from grinding the beef trimmings from cuts like steaks and roasts. Source ground beef is ground from a piece of beef, like a sirloin steak. Canada does not use the process that has been recently reported in U.S. media and on televisions shows.
Canada does import beef from the United States. You can ask your retailer if the meat you are buying is Canadian. Canadian legislation requires that imported meat products meet the same standards and requirements as if they were produced in registered establishments in Canada. It also requires that the exporting country’s inspection and certification systems along with the establishments operating under that system, be approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency before meat products are allowed to be imported into Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the Federal Government Agency responsible for protecting Canada’s food supply.” (I added the bold, btw.)
Who else is terrified by the thought of ammonia cookies!? I thought there was a bit too much of a push for saying “ammonia is okay, guys…really!” but overall a pretty thorough answer. By this, we are reassured that Canadian beef and ground beef does NOT use ammonia. Phew. Sorry USA! You may have double-coupons but we have ammonia-free beef. Nyah nyah.
Seriously though, I felt better learning this morsel of information and since I could not find a definitive answer elsewhere, I hope you will be glad to learn it, too. Hamburgers anyone?