Nutrition-wise blog

Is 'pink slime' making a comeback?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. January 3, 2013

Is lean finely textured beef (LFTB) — also known as "pink slime" — making a comeback? Possibly.

Some companies that produce LFTB filed a lawsuit against ABC News and others for knowingly or recklessly making false and disparaging statements about their product.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs make the following case in defense of LFTB:

  • The process used to separate lean beef from trimmings produces more lean beef than what could be accomplished by hand. When added to ground beef, LFTB results in an overall lower fat content, cost to consumers and waste. It also decreases the number of animals that must be slaughtered to produce lean beef.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved LFTB for use in ground beef in 1993 with no requirement that it be labeled as a separate ingredient.
  • In more than 20 years, there have been no reports of foodborne illness caused by LFTB.

The claims against the defendants include:

  • Making false and defamatory claims by describing LFTB as "pink slime" and thereby inflaming and misleading the public into believing that it was not beef and not safe for public consumption.
  • Waging a disinformation campaign based on misstatements of facts despite being provided with contradicting information by the USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and other food safety organizations.
  • Creating a grassroots movement against ground beef processors, grocery stores and restaurants that used beef containing LFTB, resulting in halting purchase of the product and the subsequent closing of processing plants and significant job losses.

Whether or not the lawsuit has merit, there are some things that I'd like to weigh in on:

  • I'm grateful that we have a robust system comprised of ranchers (farmers), processors and manufacturers of all sizes, distributors (restaurants, grocery stores), and a surveillance system committed to food safety.
  • I'm grateful that we have freedom to choose from a wide variety of foods.
  • This situation shows me that the public is very interested in food safety.
  • It seems to me that the checks and balances of our system are working — allowing for dialogue about food and its nutritional value, safety, sustainability and cost.

What's your take?

- Jennifer

Jan. 03, 2013