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Monday, April 9, 2012

School district gives potential “pink slime” to poor while children eat cake

HUDSON – Pink slime won’t be fed to kids in the Hudson School District.

Instead, ground beef that may contain the substance will be donated to the poor.

“The Hudson School District’s Food Service program will not serve ground beef that contains Lean Beef Trimmings,” reads a notice posted on the district’s website.

“While there has not been any documented evidence that ground beef containing LBT is a health risk, we are not willing to serve such ground beef to our students.

“We do have a substantial amount of ground beef obtained at minimal cost from the Federal Commodities program. The government cannot tell us whether or not this ground beef contains LBT. Therefore, we will not serve this ground beef, but, following federal guidelines, will donate this ground beef to an eligible food bank or charitable organization.”

The posting didn’t specify to which nonprofit organizations in the area the district would be donating the meat.

“Pink slime” is the term a U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist coined for a processed meat additive.

It’s made of scraps of finely ground beef and “connective tissue” mechanically separated from fat. It’s compressed, heated and treated with ammonia gas to kill bacteria.

In the United States, it can’t legally be sold directly, but it can constitute up to 15 percent of beef sold.

The substance has come under fire, with some food safety advocates raising concerns about the health risks associated with the ammonia treatment.

The issue came to a head last month when reports surfaced that school districts using beef from the U.S. Department of Agriculture commodity program could possibly be serving it in their ground beef.

In March, the National School Lunch Program announced it would allow districts to opt out of accepting beef that contained the product, meaning beef purchased before then could contain it.

Local school districts and grocery store chains have been quick to state the product wouldn’t be used in their ground beef. However, it wasn’t clear what would be done with the beef that could possibly contain “pink slime” that had already been purchased.

Hudson school officials didn’t return reporters’ phone calls on the issue. However, Carla Anger, the district’s food services director, responded to an email question by sending a copy of the federal guidelines that allow schools to donate surplus food obtained through the federal Child Nutrition Program.

In the memo dated Feb. 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture outlined statutes clarifying that any food not consumed may be donated to eligible food banks and charitable organizations.

“(Food and Nutrition Service) is committed to preventing hunger and to responsible stewardship of federal dollars,” reads the memo. “

Meanwhile, the lunch menu for a typical day in the first week in April included such items as chicken and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans and cranberry sauce and spice cake.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashuatelegraph.com.