Food Safety Network recently reported that fast-food giants McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King are no longer going to be using ammoniated beef in their products. Ammoniated beef is just a fancy name for ‘pink slime’ which has been the subject of controversy the past few years.
Pink slime is made by Beef Products Inc. which came up with the idea of using fatty beef trimmings from the slaughterhouse floor. These scraps are ground into a paste and then passed through a machine that separates out the fat. Then the final product is sprayed with ammonia to kill pathogens like E.coli and antibiotic-resistant bacteria like Salmonella.
Taco Bell even got sued over this issue over pink slime. Jamie Oliver has been talking widely about it and probably has acted as a major catalyst for fast-food companies to drop the ingredient. New York Times reported that over 5.5 million pounds of ammoniated beef was used in school lunches in 2008. And the stuff is USDA approved, which means that fast-food companies have readily added it to their hamburger products. Now, after several Salmonella outbreaks and health-scares, the big three fast-food companies have declared to not use pink slime in their products.
After several years of bad press, all three companies have decided to stop using ammoniated beef. Both Burger King and McDonald’s released statements to say that their move was in no way connected to the negative press and Taco Bell did not release any statement.
For several reasons, the pink slime does not come under scrutiny, mostly because food safety experts believed that the added ammonia works to kill pathogens effectively, however NYT stated that:
Government and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the USDA about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and Salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays.
By pledging not to use pink slime anymore, the big three of fast-food might actually be making food supplies a little safer. However, considering the amount of time it took for these companies to change their sourcing policies, this is not a decision merely from the CSR point of view. It is more a case of making sure they don’t have any more negative press regarding food safety.
Image Credit: Hamburgers on a Grill. Akhila Vijayaraghavan ©