Salmonella. Money. Burgers. Kids. E Coli. Money. Waste meat. Burgers. Money...EUREKA!!
"Well, it made me a fat multi millionaire, so how bad can it be?"
Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when Mr. 'Big Daddy' Roth came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia. Federal officials agreed to the company’s request that the ammonia be classified as a “processing agent” and not an ingredient that would be listed on labels. A USDA department microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein, called the processed beef "pink slime" in a 2002 e-mail message to colleagues and said, “I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling.”
As suppliers of national restaurant chains and government-financed programs were buying Beef Product meat to use in ground beef, complaints about its pungent odor began to emerge. In early 2003, officials in Georgia returned nearly 7,000 pounds to Beef Products after cooks who were making meatloaf for state prisoners detected a “very strong odor of ammonia” in 60-pound blocks of the trimmings, state records show.
Untreated beef naturally contains ammonia and is typically about 6 on the pH scale, near that of rain water and milk. The Beef Products’ study that won U.S.D.A. approval used an ammonia treatment that raised the pH of the meat to as high as 10, an alkalinity well beyond the range of most foods. The company’s 2003 study cited the “potential issues surrounding the palatability of a pH-9.5 product.”
Soon after getting initial approval from the agriculture department, the company devised a plan to make a less alkaline version of the beef, internal company documents show. Beef Products acknowledged in an e-mail exchange that it was making a lower pH version, but did not specify the level or when it began selling it.
In 2008, after the school lunch program temporarily suspended a Beef Products plant for salmonella contamination, the company wrote in a letter that its effort to combat ammonia “aroma” might have reduced the alkalinity below the initial target levels. Samples of the treated beef obtained by The Times this month showed a pH as low as 7.75, according to an analysis by two laboratories. Dr. Michael P. Doyle, a food industry consultant and director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, said one point on the exponential pH scale was a considerable difference, and “could have a significant effect on the antimicrobial effectiveness of the ammonia.”
From Big Daddy's corporate website (minor edits):
"BPI's process begins with USDA inspected beef trimmings from the fabrication lines of approved establishments that meet BPI's raw material specifications.
The selected trimmings are transported by conveyor to a material accumulator, which feeds into a de-sinewing device. Here, virtually all non-functional protein is removed, including cartilage, sinew and connective tissue that could not be removed in the hand trimming process.
The trim is then tempered to near post-mortem temperature to facilitate the separation of lean from fat by centrifugal force. By managing raw materials and attention to processing applications, we are able to closely match finished product fat and moisture content to customer specifications, typically achieving a 94% lean or better finished product.
At this point, the lean trim may be treated with a pH enhancement process that forms ammonium hydroxide in the finished product. In two independent process validation studies conducted by Iowa State University and National Food Laboratory, Inc., the BPI process1 eliminated all E.coliO157:H7 in the inoculated product, as well as producing significant reductions of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. The pH enhanced product is marketed as BPI® Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings. BPI®Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings are approved for unrestricted use in ground beef and hamburger with no labeling restrictions other than beef."
The U.S. federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year.
Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor, thought she had a stomach virus.
Ms. Smith, 22, was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner.