Ga. official tries to calm ground beef concerns

Prices might jump 25 cents per pound

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black tells reporters at a press conference Wednesday, April 4, 2012, that processed beef nicknamed "pink slime" is safe, 100 percent beef, and fully inspected by his department. None is produced in Georgia, but his department inspects meats sold in the state.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012 11:12 AM
Last updated 11:12 PM
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ATLANTA — National reaction to processed beef prompted Georgia agriculture commissioners to gather reporters Wednesday to try to calm the market.

Commissioner Gary Black warned that overreaction could affect food prices if consumers shun ground beef out of fear of what the industry calls “lean, finely textured beef” which has gained the unappetizing nickname “pink slime.” Ground beef prices could rise as much as 25 cents per pound if the produce were prohibited, the Agriculture Department estimates.

“When hysteria hits the marketplace, there’s economic consequences, and that certainly affects working families,” Black said.

The product is derived by slightly warming bones and trimmings to soften the fat and then spinning it rapidly to separate the meat. The fat that’s removed is used in oils while the puttylike meat is added back to ground beef to raise its lean content. To kill bacteria, processors inject ammonium, which occurs naturally in meats.

Department staffers compare the processing to a cook who makes soup from bones and meat scraps. The output is 100 percent beef and 90 percent lean, meaning it has less cholesterol than unprocessed beef.

Online petition campaigns, blogs and e-mails have raised public concerns about the safety of the product.

Black said those concerns are based on misunderstanding.

“Myths exist, both in science and in the issues related to food,” he said, recalling how fears of disease outbreaks related to peppers cost Georgia farmers millions of dollars until the actual source proved to be a few fields in Mexico.

No outbreaks have been attributed to the processed meat in the 20 years its been on the market. The same is true of the ammonium hydroxide added to it and to other foods such as cheese, chocolate and breads since 1974.

The Agriculture Department inspects food, and Black called on the director of meat inspection, Glen Echols, to address the media.

“If you’re talking about the safety of this product, there’s no real concern,” Echols said.

Black said he favors voluntary labeling but opposes making it mandatory. After all, since the processed meat is still beef, how would it be listed differently from the other meat that’s simply ground, he asks.

“It’s beef. It’s safe. It’s inspected,” he said.

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David Parker
David Parker 04/04/12 - 03:47 pm
I know the US Gov didn't just

I know the US Gov didn't just "warn" me to eat pink slime or pay higher food cost across the board.

I know a burger made from grinding up a slab of sirloin is exactly as safe as eating one that was pieced together from floor scraps . and I know that the meat molecules found in parts of cow organs and bone joints, etc are the same type of molecules found in a porterhouse.

I just don't think one has the same appetizing qualities as the other.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 07:55 am
From the Associated

From the Associated Press:

ATLANTA — Four people in Georgia have been sickened by an outbreak of salmonella which is suspected of causing illnesses in 19 states. WSB radio reported the Georgia illnesses, which are part of a growing outbreak which has sickened 90 people across the nation. The outbreak is "rapid and expanding in number of cases," with seven hospitalizations reported, according to a memo distributed to FDA staff on Tuesday. No deaths have been reported. The salmonella may be linked to sushi and investigators say they are focusing on spicy tuna rolls as "highly suspect."

You don't hear about people getting salmonella poisoning from pink slime. It's healthier than tuna.

David Parker
David Parker 04/05/12 - 09:54 am
I don't know who's suggesting

I don't know who's suggesting slime isn't safe. I just don't want to eat it.

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