WASHINGTON, March 15, 2012 –Reacting to a social media storm of criticism over the use of "lean finely textured beef" USDA officials say they will offer more alternative ground beef products to schools in the National School Lunch Program. In recent weeks, the ground beef ingredient, which critics have dubbed "pink slime" has generated hundreds of calls from parents, an online petition and headlines in major dailies around the country.

The product, which has been on the market for years, is composed of fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated to about 100 F and spun to remove most of the fat, before being compressed for use in ground beef products. The LFTB is also exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella.

The department announced today that it will be adjusting procurement specifications for the next school year so schools can have additional options in procuring ground beef products. USDA will provide schools with a choice to order product either with or without Lean Finely Textured Beef. 

"USDA only purchases products for the school-lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable, including all products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef," the department said.

USDA describes Lean Finely Textured Beef as a meat product derived from a process which separates fatty pieces from beef trimmings to reduce the overall fat content, according to USDA.

“USDA continues to affirm the safety of Lean Finely Textured Beef product for all consumers and urges customers to consult science based information on the safety and quality of this product,” according to the announcement.  

On average, schools in the National School Lunch Program purchase approximately 20 percent of their food through USDA, and approximately 80 percent of food served is purchased directly by schools or school districts through private vendors. Schools purchase food from the department through the USDA Foods Program


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