USDA Rules That ‘Pink Slime’ Can Be Called ‘Ground Beef’

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Lean Finely Textured Beef, a controversial food additive dubbed “pink slime,” has been officially classified by the Food Safety and Inspection Service at United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as “ground beef.” Pink slime made headlines in 2012 when it was found to be in 70 percent of American burgers, including at those sold at McDonald’s.

Made from beef trimmings that are exposed to ammonia gas, pink slime is used as a food additive. The classification became official on December 21, 2018, according to a report by the Daily Mail.

“After reviewing the Beef Product Inc.’s (BPI) submission of a new product and new production process, FSIS determined that the product meets the regulatory definition of ground beef under the law in 9 CFR 319.15(a) and may be labeled accordingly,” said a USDA spokesperson in a statement.

When news of the controversial substance first broke in 2012, McDonald’s vowed to remove it from its products. Many also began campaigning against the additive, leading to a $1.9 billion lawsuit against ABC News, the network that reported about products from Beef Products Inc., a South Dakota-based company.

Beef Products Inc. sued the network, claiming that the coverage by ABC misled consumers, leading them to believe the product was unsafe. They also said the report resulted in the closure of three manufacturing plants and the need to layoff around 700 employees.

ABC News ultimately settled with the meat producer in 2017. The terms of the settlement were confidential.

“Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the Company’s interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer’s right to know about the products they purchase,” said Julie Townsend, an ABC spokeswoman in a statement regarding the case.

In one report, Gerald Zirnstein, a former USDA scientist, asserted that 70 percent of ground beef contained pink slime, which was being used as a filler in ground beef packages that were labeled as 100 percent beef.

Once the reports aired, some grocery stores decided to stop carrying ground beef that contained pink slime, causing a significant decline in sales for Beef Products Inc.’s products.