Senator questions food product’s possible long-term health effects
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is calling on the USDA to take “pink slime” off school lunch menus – and replace it with high-quality Montana beef.
While the USDA recently announced plans to give schools a ground beef option that doesn’t use “pink slime,” the agency continued with plans to purchase seven million pounds of the highly processed food product – even as fast food chains like McDonalds pull it from their shelves.
“Pink slime” is a ground beef filler treated with ammonia. The USDA considers it to be safe, but a 2009 report found that it was four times more likely to test positive for salmonella than traditional ground beef.
Tester says too many questions remain about “pink slime” to serve it to children.
“It is tone deaf and inappropriate to purchase a large quantity of this product to feed children even as it is decisively rejected by consumers,” Tester wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The food that we provide our children should not be over-processed waste, and the quality of the meat created by the process has been called into question.”
Tester also wants the USDA to allow schools to replace “pink slime” with local foods – like Montana beef. Tester’s Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act gives schools the flexibility needed to use their USDA commodity dollars on locally-grown foods.
“Montana produces the best beef in the world,” Tester told Vilsack. “Rather than doubling down on hyper-processed products like ‘pink slime,’ USDA should be looking to improve students’ meals and local economies at the same time.”
Tester is working to include his bill in the upcoming Farm Bill. It is available online HERE.
Text of Tester’s letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is available below and online HERE.
March 19, 2012
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue
Washington, DC 20050
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
In the past week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been the target of significant concerns over the agency’s choice to procure seven million pounds of a highly processed product known as “lean finely textured beef.” This product, commonly known as “pink slime,” has met resistance from parents and consumer advocates. I share their belief that trimmings treated with ammonia are not what consumers expect when they are served ground beef.
While I appreciate the USDA allowing schools for the first time to proactively choose not to use products containing “pink slime,” I remain concerned that USDA considers it appropriate to serve it at all. While the USDA continues to insist that “pink slime” is not dangerous for consumers, I question the low standards such a statement endorses. I am concerned that these standards permit the use of harsh chemicals to treat beef trimmings despite the fact that the effectiveness of this treatment, the safety of the processed trimmings, and the quality of the meat created by the process have all been called into question.
In recent months, many national restaurant chains have responded to consumers’ rejection of “pink slime” by eliminating it from their products. These restaurants recognize that consumers have growing concerns about and distaste for “pink slime.” It is tone deaf and inappropriate to purchase a large quantity of this product to feed children even as it is decisively rejected by consumers. The food that we provide our children should not be over-processed waste, it should be wholesome, high-quality food to nourish their growing bodies and minds.
I would also mention that Montana produces the best beef in the world, but school nutrition officials who wish to use their USDA commodity dollars to procure food locally are unable to do so. That is one of the reasons several other senators and I introduced the Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act, which would allow schools to use their commodity dollars to incorporate fresh local meat and produce into students’ meals. Rather than doubling down on hyper-processed products like “pink slime,” USDA should be looking for ideas, like the Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act, to improve students’ meals and local economies at the same time. This is the quality food we should be providing our children. I appreciate your consideration of my concerns.
Senator Jon Tester