Action News asks local grocers about 'pink slime'

March 8, 2012

The meat filler was once used only in dog food and cooking oil.

But according to government whistleblowers, it's now found in 70% of the ground beef we buy at the grocery store.

Gerald Zirnstein is a former USDA scientist. He and his colleague Carl Custer both warned against using what the industry calls "lean finely textured beef."

Here's how it works: The waste trimmings are collected and simmered at low heat to make it easier to separate the fat from muscle. It's then put into a centrifuge and spun to finish that separation. Next the mixture is sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. Finally it's compressed intro bricks and flash frozen for shipment to meatpackers and grocery stores. Once there it's added to most ground beef and it doesn't have to appear on the label.

The makers of pink slime, Beef Products Incmade hundreds of millions of dollars off this filler.

ABC News has learned that the official who said it could be called meat is former Undersecretary for Agriculture Joanne Smith.

When Smith left the USDA, Beef Products Inc. principle supplier appointed her to its board of directors where she made at least $1.2 million over 17 years. Smith did not return ABC News' calls for comment.

Action News contacted some of the major supermarkets in our region -- Wegmans, Giant, Acme, Superfresh and Pathmark.

Wegman's says it does not use the so-called pink slime in its ground beef.

Giant says boneless lean beef trimmings are added to ground beef by its suppliers. A spokesperson says it's an industry standard that is safe. But if you do not want the filler, the Nature's Promise brand is filler free.

The company that owns Superfresh and Pathmark says at least two of its store brands do not contain the filler, the Mid-Atlantic Country Farms ground beef and Green Way All Natural. They do not have an answer yet though for other ground beef sold in the stores.

According to a statement from Acme: "At ACME, we are committed to delivering safe, high quality products to our customers and we follow federal, state and local guidelines governing our products, including ground beef. The use of finely textured beef is a longstanding practice in the industry that adheres to the strict standards approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Again, safety and quality are always top priorities at ACME and we follow all food safety regulations governing our business."

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