Pink Slime in Schools is No Problem

Starting this fall, public schools will be allowed to purchase meat containing lean finely textured beef, colloquially referred to as "pink slime." Anything with "slime" in its title sounds unappetizing. But the beef probably isn't harmful, and kids are eating other things that deserve far more scorn.

First, take a look at this comparison between the nutritional content of pink slime and 90% lean / 10% fat ground beef. There are 40 fewer calories, slightly less cholesterol, and more sodium in the former. Otherwise, they are nearly nutritionally identical. Full disclosure: those numbers come from a meat producer and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). I do not care if you dislike either organization. The point is that there appears to be no significant difference between the two products. 

The other complaint made against pink slime is that it is treated with ammonium hydroxide, a chemical compound used to control pathogens like E. coli. The FDA has pronounced it safe, claiming that "There is no evidence in the available information on ... ammonium hydroxide ... that demonstrates, or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect, a hazard to the public when ... used at levels that are now current or that might reasonably be expected in future."

The explosion of concern over the stuff seems to be driven mainly by aesthetics (it looks funny) and semantics (it's called slime!). Even New York University professor of nutrition Marion Nestle, no friend to the beef industry, concluded that the ammonia treated beef isn't harmful, but that it is the "least common denominator" in terms of quality. 

Even if true, kids eat all sorts of foods, many served at schools everyday, which make them fat, give them diabetes, and otherwise harm their health. The key ingredient all these foods share? Sugar. Even the federal government is finally beginning to recognize that the problem with our diets (and our children’s) is all the sugar we consume.

In other words, let's keep things in perspective.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Cameron English

I cover public health, nutrition and science education for PolicyMic. I also write critical thinking exercises for high school science textbooks. My previous work includes freelance writing and editing for Science 2.0. I've never been paid by Monsanto for my opinions, though that would be awesome.

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