So now, in addition to the hormones and antibiotics that the corporate meat industry already pumps into cows and, therefore, the beef we eat, there’s now AMMONIA. Good grief.
To borrow an Aussie expression: “Crikey!”
Going vegetarian is sounding better and better….
SAFETY OF BEEF PROCESSING METHOD IS QUESTIONED
The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The trimmings were particularly susceptible to contamination, but a study commissioned by the company showed that the ammonia process would kill E. coli as well as salmonella.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture endorsed the company’s ammonia treatment, and have said it destroys E. coli “to an undetectable level.” They decided it was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products.
With the U.S.D.A.’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.
But government and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the U.S.D.A. about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays.
In July, school lunch officials temporarily banned their hamburger makers from using meat from a Beef Products facility in Kansas because of salmonella — the third suspension in three years, records show. Yet the facility remained approved by the U.S.D.A. for other customers.
Presented by The Times with the school lunch test results, top department officials said they were not aware of what their colleagues in the lunch program had been finding for years.
In response, the agriculture department said it was revoking Beef Products’ exemption from routine testing and conducting a review of the company’s operations and research. The department said it was also reversing its policy for handling Beef Products during pathogen outbreaks. Since it was seen as pathogen-free, the processed beef was excluded from recalls, even when it was an ingredient in hamburgers found to be contaminated.
The founder and owner of Beef Products, Eldon N. Roth, declined requests for interviews or access to the company’s production facilities. Responding to written questions, Beef Products said it had a deep commitment to hamburger safety and was continually refining its operation to provide the safest product possible. “B.P.I.’s track record demonstrates the progress B.P.I. has made compared to the industry norm,” the company said. “Like any responsible member of the meat industry, we are not perfect.”
Beef Products maintains that its ammonia process remains effective. It said it tests samples of each batch it ships to customers and has found E. coli in only 0.06 percent of the samples this year.
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