COMMENTARY | Beef Products Inc. is adamant that pink slime beef -- "lean finely textured beef," as reported by The Daily -- is safe to consume. Whistleblower Gerald Zirnstein tells a different story when talking to ABC News. Who is right?
Zirnstein used to be a scientist with the Department of Agriculture and reveals 70 percent of supermarket ground beef contains pink slime. Although technically beef trimmings, the substance was "once only used in dog food and cooking oil," ABC News explains. Considered waste trimmings by Zirnstein, the filler undergoes processing, which includes an ammonia gas treatment, and is added to ground beef.
BPI has a different view. Pointing to the school lunch program, the company told The Daily that pink slime beef products are so economically priced that they "allow the school lunch program to feed kids nationwide every day." BPI issued a news release that refers to lean beef trimmings as "high quality and safe." To bolster its assertion, the company quoted the president of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame, the executive editor of Food Business News, the former secretary of Agriculture in Illinois and "the nation's leading foodborne illness attorney."
Scientists and manufacturers have been playing with food for years. PhysOrg reported in 2005 of how white slurry made of chicken meat turns the dark, not-easy-to-mold meat into the highly desirable white breast meat that is perfect for fast food nuggets. "A lot of foods we now consider good foods were yesterday's byproducts," a Fellow of the Poultry Science Association stated.
Yet it can sometimes turn dangerous. Take the European 1985 diethylene glycol wine disaster. The Nurnberger Nachrichten recalled how antifreeze was used by some Austrian wine makers to artificially sweeten wines and augment the taste to such an extent that even cheap bottles were made to taste like the more expensive vintages. The fallout focused on the dealings of officials, who were more concerned about the wine trade and the market than the safety of the consumer.
China suffered a deadly food scandal in 2008, when infant formula was found to contain melamine. The Australian reported the substance, which was normally used in plastic or fertilizer, could be used to increase the protein content of the formula to "increase revenue." Chinese officials went a step further and explained that "supervision has been gravely absent."