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USDA: 'Pink Slime' May Be Gross, But It's Safe

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Jim Cole/AP

For two weeks, ABC News has been running with its scoop about “pink slime,” or what the meat industry prefers to call “lean finely textured beef.” The stuff is an unappetizing but apparently safe filler that meat packers add to the ground beef sold in the nation’s grocery stores without a mention on the label.

“Critics,” ABC reported, “including former USDA scientists, contend the ammonia-treated `pink slime’ -- made from low quality scraps once used for dog food and cooking oil — is less nutritious than pure ground beef.” Since the story broke, major grocery chains such as Safeway, Publix and Whole Foods, have discontinued using the filler, and the Agriculture Department agreed to disclose to school districts which suppliers deliver beef containing “pink slime.”

On Thursday, Agriculture’s relevant official weighed in via a blog post. Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, undersecretary for food safety, wrote that she approaches her role in the dispute “not only as a food safety expert and a physician, but also as a mother.” She said it is “important to distinguish people’s concerns about how their food is made from their concerns about food safety. The process used to produce LFTB is safe and has been used for a very long time. And adding LFTB to ground beef does not make that ground beef any less safe to consume.”

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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