Two weeks ago, the science and health sections of every newspaper in the country exploded with reports that children may be eating "pink slime" for lunch at their public schools. The controversy has grown so great that Beef Products Incorporated, the manufacturer of lean finely textured beef, is suspending operations of three plants that produce the stuff.
Despite the exaggeration floating around the web, the facts haven't change. Pink slime is practically no different than traditional ground beef in terms of nutritional content. And the ammonium hydroxide used to rid the beef of harmful pathogens isn't anywhere close to toxic in the amounts consumers are exposed to, either. Furthermore, almost no reporter has even bothered to cite contrary evidence. They just imply there is something wrong and that seems to be satisfactory.
But, there's good news. A handful of writers have picked up on the tomfoolery and are taking the media to task for unnecessarily scaring the public. Atlantic food columnist Ari Levaux pointed out that pink slime is comparable to other processed meats that we consume regularly and without a second thought. And, Levaux says, it's "... not even slimy." Science2.0 also used the panic party caused by pink slime to highlight how cartoonish and politically charged science reporting in this country has become, poking fun at hysterics like Jamie Oliver in the process.
It appears that the pink slime scare is proceeding like many previous health scares. Unsubstantiated fears make headlines early on, and the demand for a political solution gets a lot of publicity. As time goes on, cooler heads weigh in with science-based analysis and the controversy begins to die. At least, I hope that part turns out to be true.
For more, see “Pink Slime in Schools is No Problem”