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Pink slime: Federal Way school lunches avoid beef product

Known unofficially as
Known unofficially as 'pink slime,' the filler is officially referred to as 'lean, finely textured beef.'
— image credit: Public domain photo (USDA)

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that schools receiving food through the government's school lunch program will be allowed to reject beef that is partially made of an ammonia-treated artificial filler.

Known unofficially as "pink slime," the filler is officially referred to as "lean, finely textured beef." According to Nathan Olson, spokesman for the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), their office is unaware of any schools or districts using the offending material in their school lunches.

"The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is not aware of any schools using lean finely textured beef. Districts can purchase beef through a number of sources, though, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a state or local co-op or commercially. Districts aren't required to report where their beef was purchased to OSPI," Olson said.

OSPI indicated that one of the state's main food and meat processors does not use the "pink slime."

"One of the state's major processors, Kings Command, has written a letter stating that it does not use that particular beef in its manufacturing. But OSPI cannot with certainty say that there is no lean finely textured beef in Washington state schools," Olson said. "The USDA continues to affirm the safety of lean finely textured beef for all consumers."

According to the USDA, the filler "is a meat product derived from a process which separates fatty pieces from beef trimmings to reduce the overall fat content." Opponents of the filler cite the fact that as part of the process, the filler is subjected to a dose of ammonium hydroxide, which is used to ensure that pathogens, such as E. coli and salmonella, are destroyed.

Debra Stenberg, community relations specialist for Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS), said the district is aware of the issues surrounding lean finely textured beef. FWPS is part of a co-op in Western Washington with various other school districts. So far, there is no indication that the beef is being used in local districts.

"The Nutrition Services staff has been tracking where it comes from, and so far, every product they checked on doesn't contain it," Stenberg said.

Stenberg said the district will post a message about the issue at fwps.org.

FWPS contracts through the aforementioned co-op with Food Services of America. The Mirror sent an email to FSA for comment, and as of Friday afternoon, had not yet received a response.

The USDA notes that "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."

The change from the USDA comes after numerous school districts across the country petitioned for more choice when it comes to their beef purchases through the federal agency.

 

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