Dozens in Congress Support Total Ban On Pink Slime in School Food, Plus News on Labeling Legislation

I spoke this morning with Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s office and was pleased to learn that she has now submitted her sign-on letter to USDA with the signatures of 41 Congressional representatives, all of whom support the request expressed in our petition that USDA ban all use of Lean Beef Trimmings, aka “pink slime” in ground beef destined for the National School Lunch Program.

In submitting this letter to USDA, Rep. Pingree recognizes, as we do, that USDA’s offer of a choice to schools — while a remarkable victory for our campaign — may not be a viable solution for all districts.

I was also advised that Rep. Pingree intends to introduce a bill in Congress requiring that LBT be labeled on supermarket ground beef, a move clearly supported by consumers across the country whose outcry about the cheap filler has recently led one major grocery chain after another to agree to cease all use of the product.

Thank you, Rep. Chellie Pingree!

I’ll keep readers posted of any new developments on either front as I learn of them.

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  1. ben says

    We need to legislation to go further and include labeling on deli meats too. What’s the point in being able to ban adulterated ground beef, when kids will turn back around and consume via bologna or hotdogs or whatever. Further, whats the point in parents making lunches for their kids to protect them from adulterated meat, if the sandwiches are unknowingly being made with pink slime? The proposed legislation isn’t gong far enough!

  2. Chris says

    I totally agree with ben. I stood in my favorite supermarket the other day appalled that I felt unable to trust anything to serve to my kids for lunch.. excepting one lonely package of organic hot dogs at over $5 a pack. Luckily, they are happy to take (organic) hummus and veggies as a sandwich alternative, so that is what we are doing for now. (healthier anyway I know, but options are nice). I knew the ingredients in those things had to be questionable.. but now knowing.. ugh.

  3. Lisa says

    I wonder how many seconds it will take you to remove this post.
    TV news loves a health scare. Think deadly Tylenol. Killer tomatoes. Mad Cow Disease. Alar in apples. And lots more. Sometimes, as with Tylenol, they are legit and important. Other times, like Alar, they are entirely bogus.

    Yet every time, the template is the same. Someone gets sick and the ravenous media tear at the company or industry for not being safe.

    This time, however, ABC News has turned that idea on its head in its usual quest for tabloid headlines. It’s going after a company, Beef Products, Inc., for making a product that’s not only already safe, it’s one we’ve all been eating for years.

    But that hasn’t stopped ABC and reporter Jim Avila. The network’s news division has decided to declare open war on … beef. So far, they’re winning. In a series of 10 stories in just about two weeks, ABC has so demonized the company and its products that Safeway, SUPERVALU and Food Lion just stopped buying it. Ditto Kroger and Stop & Shop.

    The meat, often called “lean finely textured beef, is made up of beef that is just harder to get at, so the meat isn’t lost. It’s treated to get rid of the fat and included with the rest of the ground beef. The USDA declares it healthy, but it is less expensive. As an added bonus, it is treated tiny amounts of ammonium hydroxide to make it safer to eat.

    But network broadcasts and activist videos act as if this treatment is somehow bad. This is beyond simple irresponsibility. ABC is out to destroy a family owned business to push the agenda of a couple of “whistleblowers” who don’t like the company’s beef. One of these whistleblowers, whom ABC has relied on heavily in its reporting, has dubbed it “pink slime.”

    That, editors will tell you, is headline material. Slimy journalists might add that it’s the path to winning journalistic awards – facts be damned.

    ABC has covered the story almost round the clock in recent weeks with stories on “World News with Diane Sawyer” and “Good Morning America.” Print and web outlets have reported the story, but Avila has been the face of the anti-beef attack. — Competitors at NBC did only two stories and CBS just one.

    Predictably ABC News has hyped its reports by using the term “pink slime” 52 times in just a two-week span (making it harder than usual not to associate Avila’s activist reporting with the word “slime”but that’s another story.)

    In his March 22 victory lap report about the stores pulling the beef, Avila and anchor Diane Sawyer kept calling the meat “pink slime” like a 4-year-old who has just learned a dirty word. In all, they said it 10 times, while the term itself cropped up on the screen several more.

    According to David Muir of ABC, the network’s “reporting on pink slime” has “sparked a grassroots movement.” Diane Sawyer crowed “Jim’s story prompted a public outcry.”

    But let’s look at the facts here. Beef Products Inc., which makes the beef, is trying to prevent deadly E. coli bacteria. While a couple of the stories mentioned the goal to “kill germs” or “kill bacteria,” neither of those phrasings sound especially scary. E. coli is so terrifying that the Centers for Disease Control gives it a separate page on its website, saying some forms can “cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses.”

    It’s a reality that mom Nancy Donley knows all too well. She lost her only son to the disease when he ate “contaminated ground beef back in 1993 when he was only 6 years old.” Donley wrote recently to defend the company against ABC’s attacks, saying the firm’s “use of ammonia hydroxide in minute amounts during processing improves the safety of the product and is routinely used throughout the food industry.”

    It’s also a reality even ABC journalists know well. When Topps Meat Co. recalled more than 21 million pounds of meat in 2007, it sent the company into bankruptcy. The cause? E. coli. ABC mentioned the story eight times including one Sept. 30, 2007, piece that highlighted the danger.

    Topps Meat Co is nowout of business.

    Beef Products, Inc., the firm that Avila and ABC are attacking is the exact opposite. The International Association for Food Protection gave its singularly best award – called the Black Pearl Award, to the company just five years ago. Only one firm each year gets that award.

    But then again this is ABC, which has its own awful record of covering food stories.

    Veteran TV watchers will remember ABC’s dose of similar slimy food ethics when its reporters cooperated with unions to go undercover at Food Lion. That case became a classic example of out-of-control TV journalists in quest for awards, not professionalism. ABC initially lost in court but won on appeal, though it still earned a much-deserved black eye in the process.

    So you know to be suspicious when ABC claimed “USDA officials with links to the beef industry labeled ‘pink slime’ meat.” Actually, USDA officials labeled meat as meat.

    To be fair, sometimes ABC had the honesty to refer to the meat as “so-called pink slime,” but typically they treated it like the meat was actually called that term. Even when Avila was giving the few words to the company’s side, he still called it “pink slime.” For example, he said: “And the American Meat Institute insists pink slime is not an additive, so no label is necessary.”

    Most of the ABC stories didn’t mention the company’s argument. You know, the basics of journalism, like the fact that the product is actually meat, not some foreign substance.

    That’s always what the news outlets are looking for. Major media have attacked a long list of industries in recent years – coal, oil, guns, Wall Street, banks and more. Each time, they savage an industry, they do it for ratings, never caring what damage they do to a company, shareholders or employees who might soon be looking for work.

    In ABC’s case, it’s clear they care more about headlines than health, never even mentioning the dangers of E. coli that the company, and industry, both fight against. What’s next for ABC and Avila? A war on companies that fight ebola?

    Read more:

    • George from UC says

      As you can see, Lisa, your post was not removed, unlike the ones at the American Meat Institute’s video “The Facts About Lean Finely Textured Beef” which only has 5 posts (at least 4 of mine were never approved) and doesn’t allow negative posts. As a sample, this is one of my “non-approved” posts:
      “The problem is that LFTB is NOT “just another one of those cuts” but meat that has been heated, centrifuged and gassed with ammonia. I believe that the consumer has a right to know if LFTB is included in ground beef, it’s a matter of transparency and decency.”

      You’re trying to make Beef Products, Inc. as some sort of heroes because they found a way of diverting millions of pounds of meat scraps that were destined for rendering and animal food into human consumption.

      Your comment “As an added bonus, it is treated tiny amounts of ammonium hydroxide to make it safer to eat. ” was priceless! Before BPI, ammonium hydroxide was not used as an antimicrobial in food, but as a pH or acidity controller. Even today, the FAO and WHO do not list it among the approved antimicrobials for food, but as an “Acidity regulator”. That should tell you something.

      The process developed for BPI at Iowa State University involved using gaseous ammonia to raise the pH from 6 to 10, something that requires FAR MORE than “tiny amounts” since meat is a natural acid-base buffer and resists pH change. I would love to tell you more about the process but “BPI has filed a lawsuit seeking a court order against the university to prevent the records from being released”. I wonder why?

      I do agree that calling it “pink slime” is just as misleading as saying “lean finely textured beef”. It should be called “ammonia treated beef” or “ammonia disinfected beef”.
      Read more:

  4. Scott says

    First off, isn’t the new name for Because all of the links for lead to this new site.

    Secondly, Finely Textured Leaf Beef is to beef what Mechanically Separated Chicken is to chicken. The only difference is, if I pick up a Slim Jim (which I would only do to read the ingredients, and never consume) the fourth or fifth ingredient is Mechanically Separated Chicken; ground beef or pre-made hamburgers don’t have to have Finely Textured Leaf Beef added to the ingredient label. THAT is the really big problem that all of the people that are for it do not understand. People want to know what they are putting into their bodies – regardless of whether the government says it’s safe or that Beef Products Inc. swear by the process. Do not hide something from us and then back peddle with the whole “gov’t says it’s safe, we’ve been doingthis for twenty years, no problems yet” approach.

    If Jo Ann Smith ( decided to set aside her industry allegiances and actually have a non-biased stance, maybe Finely Textured Leaf Beef would have to be on labels like other processed ingredients.

    I’ve been in the food business for twenty years – currently managing two school cafeterias, I’ve seen businesses succeed and fail. Public opinion is somethign that should not be triffled with. If Beef Products Inc., at the very beginning of this, came out and said “we’re going to make this be labeled from now on” we’d all be having a different conversation right now. But they did not and the beef industry is blindly defending them and LFTB without little to no concern for what the public truly wants – full disclosure on products and the knowledge that this is not going into our children.

    Starting to troll this site means that it is getting to people – which is good, it should. Now is probably not a good time to own stock in BPI. This whole issue has become the perverbial straw to push my family’s decision to go vegan. For some interesting reading (because Lisa, Tom, and Don have added suggested reading) I submit The China Study:

    As much as I like that Hitler video, this one is much better:

    Later on,

    • Deb says

      I’m sure in labeling was required BPI would have done it! You can’t blame them for a government oversight!y husband has worked in the food enhancement industry for almost 30 years. If the adverage person knew what was in ALL the foods they ate they would grow their own!! Hardly any of the chemicals in flavorings (that are in a HUGE majority of foods & other consumables) have to be labeled & some of them are known carcinogens! What is happening now over LGTB is a witch hunt against BPI. They have actually made beef products safer over the last few years because of their strict controls over bacteria! If you all want labels so be it! But make the government label ALL food additives not just LFTB! Just don’t complain when a only the “rich” can afford the products that YOU will help create! Most people in this country won’t read the labels anyway or understand them if they do! I’m SURE this will never get posted on this site!!

  5. Scott says

    Oh BTW, my youtube link “may be” not safe for work and/or families. But it is funny. Use discretion.


  6. Scott says


    What does make sense is that you made it private. As a parent myself, I would definitely say that in the future create a separate youtube account.

    Bettina, you should remove that comment with the link.


    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Sorry guys – I’ve been a virtually absent moderator in the last two weeks as I’ve grappled with the overwhelming reaction to the petition, etc. I did not see the video before allowing the comment to appear and now I see that it’s been made private on You Tube, so I never did see it. Sounds like something controversial there but since the link is no longer active, I’ll leave the comment in this thread. Thanks for the heads-up, Scott.

      • Scott says

        This is just an FYI, so feel free not to post this in the thread.

        It was basically the same video as the one I posted but the captions were all about you and ABC and your website, and Hitler was promoting it. Don posted it to his normal Youtube account that also had several videos of his kids on there as well. That’s the only reason I suggested it’s removal. Once it went private, there was no longer a way to find out who posted it.


  7. Mindy says

    I would prefer congressmen invest their time and talent tackling the unemployment and the national economic mess. Then expend some effort assuring the U.S. will not be caught up in a military pissing match between Israel and Iran. Then, after they get all of that permanently sorted, and only then, should they waste time fooling with Bettina’s hysterical plea for food snobbery in our schools. How ’bout some common sense, people?

      • Grammy says

        My sentiments exactly Mindy … It just cost me $60.00 to fill my car with gas; tomatoes at my grocery store went of $2.o0 a pound just from yesterday … Since I’m sure Bettina nor anyone in Congress ever eats ground beef I’m really not interested in what any of them say. They might want to focus on what matters. But then that hasn’t happened, let’s see …. in the past two years?????

  8. Scott says

    I would prefer to know what I’m eating. You know, full disclosure on ingredient labels. I know what’s going on with the economy and unemployment; as well as the issues in the middle east – what’s in ground beef?

    Common sense? Tell me what my kid is eating in school – OK? Ground Sirloin is sirloin ground up; ground beef is cow parts ground up – all parts. Mechanically Separated Chicken/Pork needs to be labeled, so should Lean, Finely Textured Beef.

    That’s really the whole issue – tell us what’s in what we eat. Don’t tell us that it’s beef because the gov’t says they’ve declared it beef (THANK YOU JO ANN SMITH), it’s processed. What cut of the cow does bologna come from? I’ll tell ya – all cuts – because it’s processed; but we all know it’s a processed meat, just like olive loaf.

    I completely understand there are several thousand jobs on the line here, but seriously, all of these people posting the link and berating what’s being said, to me, truly don’t understand – Americans want to know what they are eating. If BPI came out and said that they want labeling for their product, this whole shit-storm could have been avoided.

    I do not want to see a few thousand people lose their livelihoods, but compared to a few million kids eating something their parents thought was one thing and is not (yeah, I know – it’s snobbery to want to know what our kids consume when we’re not there and trust others to be responsible) – y’all can call unemployment by April 10th I bet.

    Later on,

  9. Gracie says

    Well, this asinine labeling thing should be right up Congress’s alley. Yep, they should relish wasting time and money on “labels to nowhere”. Labels printed with statements of the obvious, labels no one reads anyhow. Great idea. Perfect!

    Stupid foodies.

    • Mary says

      From a “stupid foodie” to you. I would like a choice. And apparenlty so don’t a whole lot of other people. Thanks.

    • Lenee says

      “Stupid Foodies” tend to be the people who actually read labels. And if LFTB was “obviously” in the beef then we wouldn’t need labels, now would we? I can’t tell you how many times a week I put something back on the shelf after reading the label. Labels caused me to learn to bake, can, grind, and cook in general. Stupid me…..

  10. Mary says

    It’s wonderful to see that our politicians are listening to the people. Give the people a choice, be transparent. We want to know what we are eating and that what we are eating is what they say it is. LFTB is not “ground beef”, it is an additive to ground beef, collected from parts of the animal that carry a greater concern for health. Good job to everyone who has voiced your concerns. Keep up the good work Bettina!

  11. SDmeatguy says

    Bettina, Think about why this column of yours was started, and who is supporting you. First its somebody from congress. And even more imortantly, its somebody from Maine. How much beef or hamburger is really produced in Maine? Please, Please align yourself with meat science people who are more credible before going to congress to push you agenda. Rely on science. Not Congress. At least for the facts to base your decisions on. This is seriously deep waters you have gotten into, and science will help you make the right moves. Emotions will not. I think you should only call on Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree if you need help getting deadly bacteria removed from Lobster. Not Beef. You live in Texas, which has a plethera of Doctorates in the science of meat. Call on them. Aligning yourself with the first person in congress to take on your case just shows a lesser side of maybe a more noble cause.

  12. USDA Deception says

    “Lean Finely Textured Beef” is an extremely deceptive name. I assure you that was thought-up somewhere in some Monday morning marketing meeting by highly-paid execs. Deception is the root of this problem. Deceptive naming is the root of the problem and the proposed labeling will continue to perpetuate the deception. Stop the deception and call it what it is, Ammonia Treated Beef By-Product (or products plural) because THAT’S WHAT IT IS in it’s untreated form. Before treatment the beef by-products ARE NOT fit for human consumption.

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