Wednesday, February 13, 2019

USDA rules ‘pink slime’ can be classified as ground beef

U.S. Department of Agriculture investigators have determined that so-called "pink slime" – the controversial processed beef trimmings sometimes added to ground beef – should be labeled as ground beef, Joe Fassler reports for The New Food Economy

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service also ruled that the product, which is sold by South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc., should be classified as a new ground beef product, since BPI’s manufacturing process has changed greatly since it first began selling the substance, Fassler reports. 

The ruling is a significant win for BPI, which has been battling public disgust since a 2012 segment by ABC News first brought attention to the product, which BPI calls “boneless beef trimmings” or “lean finely textured beef.” BPI sued, and ABC's parent, the Walt Disney Co., paid a $177 million settlement that short-circuited the trial of the case in South Dakota.

The ruling is an about-face for USDA. “Since 1994, the government’s stance has been clear. Lean finely textured beef (LFTB) has been a ‘qualified component’ of hamburger, meaning it can be included in ground beef without being independently disclosed, Fassler reports. “But it could not itself be called ground beef, suggesting that, in the eyes of regulators it was something else—a padding or additive, but not the real deal.”

Though the USDA says it changed its stance because BPI’s process changed, Fassler noted it wasn’t clear how it had changed, and said he wasn’t able to get details. 

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