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The Post on Pink Slime

1:00 PM, Apr 23, 2012 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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The backlash to the backlash over "pink slime" continues: This past weekend in the Washington Post business section, Dina ElBoghdady reported on the consequences resulting from the panic. What is interesting is how it's understood within the piece that, at this juncture, what transpired was an overreaction via social media and that, as it turns out, this "lean, finely textured beef" has been, and is, safe for consumption.

Writes ElBoghdady:

For the better part of two decades, before it was dubbed “pink slime,” this beef byproduct was nothing more than a mild-mannered staple in fast food burgers, tacos in school lunches and ground beef stocked in supermarket freezers.

Federal regulators never sounded safety concerns about it. No one directly linked it to foodborne illnesses or outbreaks. In fact, many food safety activists praised it as a technological marvel in the dangerous world of raw meat.... People, it seems, who for years gobbled down “lean finely textured beef” sat upright when they saw “pink slime.”

The reporter then quotes a lawyer for the Center for Science in the Public Interest who admits "'It’s substantively not the most critical health issue, yet it was framed in such a way that the public outcry actually changed food policy in a matter of weeks.... If we could figure out the formula and apply it to serious public health issues, that would be amazing.'" (At least some good comes out of this!)

ElBoghdady also mentions, as I did earlier, that Nancy Donley, whose son died a terrible death because of E. coli-tainted beef, has actually come to the defense of the byproduct. (In addition, the Post article provides a useful graphic as to how the "lean, finely textured beef" is made—in stark contrast to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's exaggerated demonstration.)

As for the consequences, concludes ElBoghdady,

The American Meat Institute estimates that if the lean finely textured beef disappears, it would take another 1.5 million more cattle per year to offset the loss. Even before the pink slime controversy, the meat industry was struggling. Ground beef sales, including trimmings, fell 11 percent last month to 38 million pounds, a 10-year low for that month, according to a Bloomberg analysis of government data.

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