‘Pink slime’ controversy hits CFHS

What’s in your beef nachos? According to Food Service Director LaVonne Ardnt, the school cannot pinpoint whether products­­­­­­­­­­ —such as the nachos senior Peter Tran munches on— contain the contested BPI product.

The ground beef referred to by some as “pink slime” and by others as “lean finely textured beef”
has aroused considerable controversy recently but will not be taken out of Cedar Falls School System meals.

The low-cost filler — made from meat scraps, cow connective tissues and other beef trimmings treated with ammonia gas — comprises approximately 6.5 percent of the ground beef used in CFHS meals. Food service director LaVonne Ardnt said that the school has been informed by the USDA, food safety and inspection services, and the Iowa Department of Education that the product presents no health concerns.

“We’ve been assured that it is a safe product, so I know of no other reason to think otherwise,” Ardnt said.

Governor Terry Branstad has been outspoken about encouraging schools to continue use of the product, sending schools all a letter touting its safety and making a trip to the South Sioux City plant to promote the product himself. However, information revealing that Branstad received $150,000 in campaign contributions from BPI — the maker of pink slime — has raised eyebrows about his motivations for supporting the product.
Junior Brandon Dix questions the validity of the government assurances.
“The fact that other countries, such as Canada, won’t even accept imports cleaned with ammonia gas and choose to use alternatives in their beef products makes me hesitant to eat it.”

The product has been on supermarket meat counters since the early ‘90s, but a social media frenzy fuelled by British chef Jamie Oliver has led to a wide-scale outcry about the use of the product. The collective public revulsion has prompted the halt of use of the product at retailers such as McDonalds and Taco Bell as well as the closing of the Waterloo BPI packing plant, resulting in laying off more than 200 workers.

Senior Jeff Daniels said that he feels the issue surrounding what some call pink slime is more psychological than physical.

“Just because you know what is in it and it changes how you feel about it doesn’t mean the actual product is any different. I’ve been eating this meat for my entire life, and I turned out normal.”

Although no illnesses have been linked to BPI’s product, its integration into meat without proper labelling has spurred concern.

The USDA currently labels products 100 percent beef if they contain 15 percent or less of BPI’s product. Ardnt said that it’s impossible to pinpoint which products in the Cedar Falls lunches contain the product because the school ships their commodity beef to a processor and buys the finished product.

But some still remain concerned. “When I eat things, I want to know what’s in them,” senior Erin Keiser said. “What else am I eating that I don’t know about?”

Retailers such as HyVee have responded to the public demand for proper labelling by offering beef with BPI’s product and beef without it. Ardnt said that Cedar Falls lunch system may consider doing something similar next year, although no details are available.

“I think this is really a transparency issue,” sophomore Martha Hall said. “Consumers should have a choice. I should be able to know what’s in my food and eat meat knowing it doesn’t contain pink slime instead of just not eating meat.”

Still, a resounding opinion of CFHS students was expressed succinctly by senior Andrew Malley.

“If it tastes good, I’ll eat it.”

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