Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Who's afraid of pink slime?

Is pink slime harmful?
In 2012, the USDA announced that schools could choose between meat with LFTB or without for cafeterias.
In 2012, the USDA announced that schools could choose between meat with LFTB or without for cafeterias.
PhotoLink/Photdisc/Getty Images

Right now, there are no proven cases of illness as a result of eating LFTB. But that doesn't mean people don't have their doubts about the product.

Part of the squabble is that there's no requirement to mention the presence of LFTB on food labels. Some people, including USDA scientist Gerald Zirnstein, who wrote the original "pink slime" e-mail, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, consider selling ground beef with LFTB filler consumer fraud and call for LFTB labeling on packaging. Plus, Zirnstein told The Daily that he thinks the overall protein quality of ground beef is compromised when LFTB is added.

Another rub is that Beef Products representatives made a claim that ground beef with LFBT is safer than ground beef without LFTB. This is simply not true, according to a number of sources. Just because the LFTB is treated doesn't mean it disinfects the meat into which it's mixed. In fact, because LFTB is designed as a filler to expand the supply of ground beef and its presence makes meat more affordable, if a supply of meat were tainted with E. coli or salmonella, then the fact that LFTB had been added to it would mean it would actually reach and potentially harm more consumers, public health lawyer Michelle Simon told ABC News.

Whereas before pink slime was added to ground beef as a cheap filler to save money, its presence has now become a profit and sales headache for companies that sell beef. Supermarkets, fast food chains and other companies are racing each other to announce that products with pink slime are sliding off their shelves -- permanently -- or that they will now only carry ground beef that indicates LFTB on the labeling, a practice recently endorsed by the USDA and by LFTB producers.

The furor against pink slime peaked in early 2012 when the USDA announced the agency would make available to school districts 7 million pounds of ground beef that included LFTB. Oodles of major TV networks and newspapers picked up the story, and it was shared across social media sites, resulting in a petition on that gathered 200,000 signatures in nine days. In short order, the USDA announced that starting in the fall of 2012 school districts would have a choice of beef with or without LFTB.