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Major Producer of Ground Beef Additive Is Scaling Back Production of ‘Pink Slime’

March 27, 2012 -- A maker of “lean, finely textured beef” -- also called “pink slime” by opponents -- says it is scaling back production of the beef product.

Beef Products Inc. said Monday that it will suspend production of the ground beef filler in three of its four plants, according to news reports.

This decision was made after several social media outlets were swarmed with concerns about the product when pictures surfaced in early March showing its appearance during production.

A petition seeking to get the product removed from schools was signed by hundreds of thousands of concerned parents, causing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow school districts to stop using it.

Several major supermarket chains, including Kroger Co., Safeway Inc., and Supervalu Inc., along with school districts across the U.S., have recently said they would no longer purchase or use meat products that use the ingredient.

The product has been used for two decades and the USDA says it meets food safety standards.

The product is made from scraps of meat left over from other cuts. The scraps are heated and spun to remove most of the fat, and then the lean mix is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella. The result is a product that can be as much as 97% lean beef.

Critics have argued that meat trimmings are more likely to carry bacteria, and that including them as filler in ground beef increases the risk of infection.

Beef Products Inc. will suspend production of the ground beef filler at their plants in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; and Waterloo, Iowa, which produce a combined 900,000 pounds of the “lean, finely textured beef” every day.

The company has not indicated how long production of the filler would be suspended.

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