If you’ve watched “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
,” you’ll probably be familiar with "pink slime." It’s what he refers to as the last bits of cow that are scraped or centrifugally removed from cow parts that are usually considered inedible when the rest of the edible parts have been removed.
These cow parts are ground together and cleaned with ammonium hydroxide — because without the chemical treatment, it would be dangerous to eat because it contains bacteria. The slime is then added to other fillers, sugar, seasonings, and I would assume a little bit of actual ground beef. (Maybe I’m being optimistic with that last one.)
News of the change broke within the past week, but MSNBC says McDonald’s claims it stopped using pink slime in August 2011 and denies that pressure from Oliver had anything to do with the company's decision. Oliver’s TV show, which brought the pink slime into public consciousness, aired in April 2011.
The USDA says that pink slime, or "select lean beef trimmings" as McDonald’s likes to call it, is safe for consumption. That’s a little scary because of ammonium hydroxide’s other uses.
Besides being used as a household cleaner and in fertilizer, the compound releases flammable vapors, and with the addition of certain acids, it can be turned into ammonium nitrate, a common component in homemade bombs.
Countries such as England and Ireland have been smart to err on the side of caution and have banned ammonium hydroxide for use in food.
The removal of pink slime in McDonald’s burgers isn’t going to get me to walk back through those Golden Arches with my kids. But it is good news. Despite the company's denial that pressure from Oliver, or anyone else, swayed the decision, I don’t believe it. I think this shows that when public pressure is put on food companies, changes can happen.