Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dog-food for people

At the turn of the century, Upton Sinclair, wrote The Jungle, a novel about the meat industry in Chicago and exposed the horror of the slaughter-men's existence and the horror of the food being produced. Although Sinclair originally intended to expose "the inferno of exploitation [of the typical American factory worker at the turn of the 20th Century]," but the public instead fixated on food safety as the novel's most pressing issue. In fact, Sinclair bitterly admitted his celebrity rose, "not because the public cared anything about the workers, but simply because the public did not want to eat tubercular beef"

Periodically similar revelations appear in the media. The latest features pink slime term coined by Gerald Zirnstein, a former microbiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to describe the unlabeled and unappetizing bits of cartilage and other chemically-treated scrap meat going into U.S. ground beef, or an ammonium hydroxide-treated filler known in the industry "lean, finely textured beef," a low-cost ingredient made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated and spun in a centrifuge to remove most of the fat. The lean mix then is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella. It has led to large supermarket chains to ban the product. McDonald's said it would stop buying hamburger containing it and the USDA has said school districts can opt out of feeding it to children. Now even manufactures of the stuff have suspended operations.

Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University's Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, said "If this is acceptable to people, it essentially means it's OK to eat the kind of stuff we put into pet food"

It sounds unappetizing but there's no evidence that it isn't safe or nutritious. Pink slime is not necessarily any more dangerous than many other industrial food practices. Years ago, cautious shoppers demanded that the butcher grind their beef in front of them so they could be sure he didn't toss in offal or scraps of lower-quality meat. Now a modern package of ground beef is more likely to come from not one animal but several and, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, will probably include head meat, the esophagus and other internal organs And, of course, pink slime.

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