Despite major fast food retailers banning the use of “pink slime” in its foods, the additive will still be used in cafeterias across the United States.
In January, McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell in the US announced they had finally agreed to stop using ammonia hydroxide in their hamburger meat.
The product, which is commonly known as ‘pink slime,’ is used to kill E-Coli, Salmonella and other pathogens mostly found in meat that is suitable for dog food.
Beef by-products including cow intestines, connective tissue and other parts that are not used in traditional beef cuts are used to make the slime, and due to their susceptibility to E. Coli and Salmonella, the ammonium hydroxide is added to kill the bacteria.
Industrial cleaning products and an explosive ingredient found in ammonia hydroxide led celebrity chef and health campaigner Jamie Oliver to call for the additive to be banned.
But while the fast food giants are self-regulating to protect the health and safety of adults and children alike, it seems places populated entirely by adolescents – school cafeterias – do not share the same sense of responsibility, with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) telling “The Daily” it is purchasing 7 million pounds of pink slime to use in school lunches.
Oliver has been campaigning not only for the pink slime to be banned in all foods in America, but has also been fighting to improve the quality of school lunches in the country.
The additive has not been banned at this stage and the decision not to use it comes down to individual companies.
The USDA has defended its decision in a statement to The Daily.
"All USDA ground beef purchases for the National School Lunch Program must meet the highest standards for food safety," it said.
"This includes stringent pathogen testing and compliance with all applicable food safety regulations.
“USDA would only allow products into commerce or especially into schools that we have confidence are safe."
But even if pink slime is in food products in the country, consumers would not know about it, because the Food Standards Authority considers ammonia “a processing agent,” which exempts it from having to be listed on packaging.
Health Reporter Dr. John Torres told The Daily that ammonia does not cause a major health risk to human bodies and he would be more concerned about the possible E. coli and Salmonella that could still exist in the beef by-products, even after the chemical treatment.
The by-products used do not have the same nutritional value as pure ground beef, which is also a point of worry for Torres.
"The big concern is that this is a chemically processed food, it doesn’t have nearly the nutrients of normal beef," he said.
"It’s one of those things, ‘Do I want my child to have this?’
“On a short-term, moderate basis: maybe. On a long-term basis: no."
Beef Products Inc, which produces the slime, estimates the slime is used in 70 percent of the ground beef sold in the United States.
Food Magazine contacted Hungry Jack’s and McDonald’s Australia in February to out whether pink slime is , or was, used here, and spokespeople from both confirmed that the products has not ever been used.