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RSS By: Steve Cornett, Beef Today

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BLBT Gets Slimed

Mar 08, 2012

Sigh. No doubt you’ve seen the hysteria surrounding the inclusion of Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings in school lunches. If not, Google the term. Oops. You don’t find much, do you? Now try "pink slime" and read a few of the "news" reports. Count the number of activist-types cited, note that there is no evidence anywhere indicating there is anything unsafe about the product and then take a minute to ponder the state of American journalism.

The problem with this modern media is there are too many "reporters" and too many of them are untrained and/or stupid. At about noon Thursday, a Google news search turned up 77 news stories with the term "pink slime." But if you added "Patrick Boyle" or BLBT to the search, you got one hit and it's from the PR Newswire.

PR Newswire would be where Mr. Boyle, the guy at the American Meat Institute every one of those reporters should have called, was shouting the facts into the wind.

About the only thing I found online worth reading was from Alexandra Petri—the pun-loving dish who writes satire for the Washington Post—who does a better job of reporting the facts than the reporters and gets it in perspective.

The rest? Whooboy. I recommend the one from MSNBC. It’s pretty typical in its hyperbolic tone, but a bit clumsier with the facts and background than most of the others:

Notice that it (a) includes ZERO explanation of what the product is and (b) makes the outlandishly ridiculous statement that the product "accounts for 70 percent of all ground beef consumed in the U.S."

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not a big fan of including ammonia-treated beef in school lunches. I remember the sheep farmer who told me he thought lamb consumption fell after World War II because the Army fed so many troops bad-tasting mutton and they came home and refused to eat lamb of any kind.

Giving schoolkids off-flavored meat strikes me as a poor form of long-range planning for an industry, and charging more than necessary isn’t so smart either. But it isn’t going to hurt them. This is a case where somebody comes up with a pejorative term and all at once you’ve got the media’s attention. Remember chicken’s "fecal soup?" Or "mad cow?"

So as far as I’m concerned, they can go back to putting the trimmings in hot dogs and sausage, which, I guess, all these reporters presume are made from ground-up T-bone steak. But in the meantime, don’t have a cow.

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COMMENTS (1 Comments)

Ric Ohge - Belmond, IA
Among other interesting factors about it's creation and ingredients, part of the processing includes an ammonia bath. Could that ammonia be completely removed? Not completely, according to Inger Pols of the New England Health Advisory: "Now to be clear, untreated meat has a natural ammonia level that rates about 6 on the pH scale, similar to milk or rain water. But this company found that if they treated the beef with an ammonia process that resulted in changing the pH level to about 10, they could kill the E.coli and salmonella. That is an alkalinity that surpasses the range of most foods. Pink Slime So they took their study to the U.S.D.A., who was worried about E. coli and salmonella. One former U.S.D.A. microbiologist admitted that he and several scientists were concerned that no independent validation of safety had been provided. Another, Gerald Zirnstein said the processed beef looked like "pink slime" and went on to say "I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling." But in the end, the U.S.D.A. not only approved the ammonia processed meat, they were so pleased with the performance of the ammonia process that when they started routine testing of the hamburger meat, they exempted the company, considering their meat safe enough to skip testing. The Agricultural Marketing Service, the U.S.D.A. division that is responsible for buying food for school lunches, seemed to be a voice of reason. Complaints were made about the smell and a 2002 memo states that they "had to determine if the addition of ammonia to the product is in the best interest of the A.M.S. from a quality standpoint." In addition, they stated, "The product should be labeled accordingly." A top lawyer and lobbyist for the meat industry argued on the company's behalf that another company had just received approval to not disclose a chemical used in treating poultry, so therefore this company shouldn't have to disclose the ammonia. He won. The Food and Drug Administration approved the ammonia process, considering it safe when used as a processing agent in food. Making Money from Meat Previously Unfit for Human Consumption. Fortunately, since the Fast Food industry turned thumbs down on it, the USDA decided to make the use of it elective for each School District. I guess that makes me a "Whining 18 year old", as I've not found a satisfactory figure for my RDA's of Ammonia, so I'll eat all the Steak, Roasts, Ribs, and honest-to-grill Burgers our fine American Beef Producers can create...bu no pink slime.
The "Pink Slime" (Oddly, as the excerpt from the article above, the person that coined the name was a USDA Microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein, who would only recommend it for a possible filler.)is still (and SHOULD be) under study in University settings. One negative factor was found by Drs. Yang & Butler, researchers at the National Center for Biotechnology Investigation, who determines,"The effect of ammonium chloride was determined on a culture of CHO cells transfected with the human erythropoietin (EPO) gene. Cell growth was inhibited above a culture concentration of 5 mM NH(4)Cl with an IC-50 determined to be 33 mM. The specific production of EPO increased with the addition of NH(4)Cl above 5 mM. At 10 mM NH(4)Cl, the final cell density after 4 days in culture was significantly lower but the final yield of EPO was significantly higher. This appeared to be due to continued protein production after cell growth had ceased. The metabolic effects of added NH(4)Cl included higher specific consumption rates of glucose and glutamine and an increased rate of production of alanine, glycine, and glutamate. The EPO analyzed from control cultures had a molecular weight range of 33-39 kDa and an isoelectric point range of 4.06-4.67. Seven distinct isoforms of the molecule were identified by two-dimensional electrophoresis. This molecular heterogeneity was ascribed to variable glycosylation. Complete enzymatic de-glycosylation resulted in a single molecular form with a molecular mass of 18 kDa. Addition of NH(4)Cl to the cultures caused a significant increase in the heterogeneity of the glycoforms as shown by an increased molecular weight and pI range. Enzymatic de-sialylation of the EPO from the ammonia-treated and control cultures resulted in identical electrophoretic patterns. This indicated that the effect of ammonia was in the reduction of terminal sialylation of the glycan structures which accounted for the increased pI. Selective removal of the N-glycan structures by PNGase F resulted in two bands identified as the O-glycan linked structure (19 kDa) and the completely de-glycosylated structure (18 kDa). The proportion of the O-linked glycan structure was reduced, and its pI increased in cultures to which ammonia was added. Thus, the glycosylation pattern altered by the presence of ammonia included a reduction in terminal sialylation of all the glycans and a reduction in the content of the O-linked glycan. The addition of a sialidase inhibitor to the cultures had no effect on the ammonia-induced increase in EPO heterogeneity. Also, the effect of ammonia on glycosylation could not be mimicked using the weak base chloroquine in our system." Inhibiting Cellular growth wouldn't be considered by most of us as a good thing. The FDA MSDS Data Sheet says this: "Safety: The FDA lists Ammonium hydroxide as a binding and neutralizing food additive (B&N) that is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) and permitted as an optional ingredient in standardized food (FS). Somebody needs to rub a little ammonia across their computer screen, so they can get a good look at the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Ammonium Hydroxide. My favorite is: DANGER! Causes eye and skin burns. Causes digestive and respiratory tract burns. Harmful if swallowed? That's pretty crystal clear, but wait, there's more. It's listed as a hazardous substance under the U.S. Federal Clean Water Act and OSHA lists it as a highly hazardous substance. The state of New Jersey has it on a Special Health Hazards Substance List, which warns that Ammonium hydroxide forms dangerous and highly toxic gas under thermal decomposition or combustion-that would be heat, as in cooking. And you thought heartburn was from eating something spicy." So, does that finish the discussion? not necessarily, but does indicate a bit more study should have been done. We have a nation full of people who are frankly less healthy now than even a decade ago, with escalating Medical costs, and diminishing opportunities for the Medical care remaining. It simply means we need to take a harder look at this one, something big companies seem loath to do, more and more. Now, there may be some good news, if the regulators get out of the way. We HAVE some of the best Beef ever produced in history, who could directly supply all the schools with a USDA lunch program. This is much better quality AND would put more money into the pockets of the individual Farmers and Livestock producers. That won't help the big processors,but WILL help Farmers, not the mention those the Lunch Program serves. I think it's worth a look.​
1:10 PM Mar 19th

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