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You’ve been slimed!


As someone who was born in the ’80s, I think of the gross green dude from Ghostbusters or that nasty gelatinous substance that was regularly dropped on people on Nickelodeon. Wasn’t “slime” sold in single plastic containers in toy vending machines as well?

But I digress: I’m sure many of my contemporaries have fond memories of the green slime from our childhoods, but that is not the slime that has been plastered all over the news lately.

That would be “pink slime.” And guess what? We have all eaten it. Back in 1994, Rick Perry’s “Lean Finely Textured Beef” was developed in the wake of public health concerns over E. coli in beef. A process was developed by the founder of Beef Products Inc. that disinfects the meat using ammonia (YES, you heard that right…AMMONIA). The additive was approved for human consumption by the USDA in 2001.

Since its approval, consumer advocates, scientists, and even internal United States Department of Agriculture staff staff have objected to its addition to ground beef in the U.S. In 2007, the USDA determined the disinfection process was so effective that it would be exempt from “routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public. More disturbingly, beef in the U.S. can be labeled “100 percent ground beef” even if it contains up to 15 percent pink slime in the U.S. You can only be confident that your ground beef has no pink slime in it if it comes with a USDA Organic label.

OK… what?? I knew those “mystery meat” hamburgers and hot dogs weren’t healthy for me, but not in my wildest imagination could I have known that I was eating something that was treated with the same thing that I use to clean windows. Maybe the father from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was on to something when he sprayed Windex on everything, but I doubt it.

AFA Foods Inc., one of the largest ground-beef processors in the country, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday, citing “recent changes in the market” as one of its reasons. I’ll say. The campaign against pink slime has caused major grocery stores, fast food chains, and schools to discontinue their use of any ground beef containing the filler.

Undoubtedly, ground beef prices will rise and more folks will lean toward purchasing certified USDA Organic ground beef. For those involved in consumer protection and/or corporate law, you can be sure that litigation related to food labeling and safety is going to increase dramatically. In our current world dominated by social media and the Internet, consumers will have a louder voice in fighting for their causes, whether it is eliminating the stealthy use of pink slime, objecting to industrial production of livestock on a scale that’s far too large to sustain without putting consumers at risk, analyzing health factors in school lunch programs or eating eggs from chickens who are housed on top of each other in coops.

I, for one, find this controversy right in line with some personal soul searching on the topic of organic foods, products, sustainability, independent farming… basically, knowing what is in what you eat and how it helps your health. The other week I went in search of organic face cream and realized I had no idea why “organic” was better. It will be interesting to see where this all leads.


  1. Maryland Esquire

    Could you please provide a legitimate cite for the assertion that any food, including the meat you reference, “was treated with the same thing that I use to clean windows.”? That has been proven to be wrong and was an exaggerated assertion set forth by the blogger who started this controversy.

    Do you know that the same product is used extensively in food processing beyond the meat industry (e.g., baked goods, cheese, chocolates, puddings, etc.)?

    Please note that I am no fan of either the meat or the processed food industries, but please do your due diligence.

  2. Dorothy Hae Eun Min

    You do know this is a blog right? We are not investigative journalists.

    That being said, some simple Google searches could have answered your questions. While I did review news articles at the time I drafted my original post, typing in “pink slime” will bring you several links to more current news stories on this issue. I am not sure which news outlets are satisfactory to you in the manner and quality of their reporting, but here you go:

    Q: Could I please provide a legitimate cite for the assertion that any food, including the meat you reference, was treated with the same thing used to clean windows?
    A: Well, I don’t know the details involving the production of any and all types of food, since I didn’t really reference any other type of food other than hamburgers and hot dogs. According to a former USDA scientist and whistleblower, 70% of ground beef sold in supermarkets contain “pink slime.” Pink slime is a product treated with a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria. Ammonium hydroxide, more simply, is an ammonia solution. If you go to the FAQ section of the Windex site, it states, “[a]ll but two Windex® Glass and Multi-Surface Cleaners contain detergents, solvents, fragrance, Ammonia-D®, and alcohol. They should not be used if ammonia is not recommended for use on surface. (Windex® Multi-Surface Vinegar and Windex® Outdoor Multi-Surface do not contain ammonia. They are safe to use in these cases.)” The FAQ section also advises consumers which Windex products do not contain ammonia. Based upon this information, I made the statement about hamburgers and hot dogs in good faith that I have likely consumed pink slime in my lifetime. While some processed foods companies have come forth to declare that they do not use pink slime in their products, everyone else is remaining mum about their processing practices. Do I know how much ammonia is present in a “puff of ammonium hydroxide gas?” No. Do I know how much ammonia is present when I swipe Windex on glass to clean it? No. Either way, I was disturbed that a glass cleaner had anything in common with a treatment to kill bacteria on an ingredient commonly found in processed meats. I don’t know about you, but all of the above information leads me to believe that all of this is not merely an “exaggerated assertion” by a blogger.

    Q: Did I know that the same product [pink slime] is used extensively in food processing beyond the meat industry (e.g. banked goods, cheese, chocolates, puddings, etc.)?
    A: No. Ew–that’s gross and disturbing. Is your “legitimate cite” for that information the Huffington Post’s article, “Pink Slime’s Most Notorious Ingredient, Ammonia, Found In Many Foods?” If not, let me know who else has reported that info. If so, I wonder why you didn’t run into the other Huffington Post articles on this whole topic, especially the one I cited to in my original post that talk about the issue of ammonia in processed meat products… strange…