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March 15, 2012 at 7:59 PM

Not so fast on “pink slime” beef

When we talked about “pink slime” beef in grocery stores and schools earlier this week, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction said no Washington public schools are serving the stuff. Now, there’s an update that they aren’t sure.

One of the state’s major processors, Kings Processing, has written a letter saying they do not use the meat scraps treated with ammonium hydroxide, spokesman Nathan Olson said. And he still isn’t aware of any schools using meat that contains it. However, he said tonight, districts can buy meat from a variety of sources, and he can’t say for sure that none of it contains the so-called “slime,” technically known as “lean finely textured beef,” which reports put in up to 70 percent of the nation’s ground beef supply. (One of the issues with the product, as food safety lawyer Bill Marler noted, is that manufactureres aren’t required to label it. The USDA says it’s safe to eat, but in the court of public opinion it’s got a certain ick factor.)

After this week’s uproar, the Associated Press says that the USDA has now backed off to some degree on using the beef in the federal school lunch program. Districts will now know up front if any suppliers use the stuff, and will have the choice of ordering beef without it.

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