CINCINNATI - People have strong feelings about the food they eat, and the food their children eat, so we're still getting comments about my report on "pink slime," that aired July 1.
And since then, you've probably eaten a few burgers, and maybe our report made you think twice about what was in it.
"Pink slime" is the not-so-flattering nickname for a ground beef "extender" that's treated with ammonium hydroxide.
It's added to ground beef served in schools and fast food restaurants, and sold in local grocery stores.
Reaction to the ammonium hydroxide process seems to fall into two categories.
"No big deal," is the general consensus at a microbiology lab at the University of Cincinnati, where scientists deal with all kinds of compounds everyday.
Dan Hassett, PhD., is a professor of molecular genetics and biochemistry.
"Ammonium hydroxide is a food preservative, the compound used at low concentrations to keep the agent, say, meat, for longer periods of time, an extended period of time."
The ammonium hydroxide process, invented to make use of beef trimmings and to kill E-coli and salmonella, is approved by the USDA and FDA.
"I'm not a vegetarian, I love my beef, my pork, my chicken. I'm not concerned because I know the FDA is good at what they do," said Dr. Hassett.
On the other hand, Lauren Niemes of the Nutrition Council believes safety should not be our only concern.
"As a dietician, I want people to eat less ground beef. Whether they buy it from the butcher, fast food burger or school lunch, ground beef is a major source of saturated fat in the diet and while it does provide protein, there are better choices for people for getting this protein."
As for the product celebrity chef Jamie Oliver calls "pink slime," Niemes says buyer beware.
"You're putting your health in the hands of the food industry, whose primary objective is to make a profit. They're not there to protect your health. That is your job as a consumer."
Both Dr. Hassett and Lauren Niemes agree on one thing for food safety: when you cook ground beef, cook it thoroughly.
Niemes recommends buying round steak from a butcher you know, and grinding it yourself, or asking the butcher to grind it. That way you know what's in it.
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