Beef Products Inc. sued ABC News, Inc. for defamation Thursday over its coverage of a meat product that critics dub "pink slime."
CLEVELAND - A national investigation recently revealed some grocery stores are selling ground beef that contains beef trimmings, also known as "pink slime." So which northeast Ohio grocery stores are selling it?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said pink slime is a low-cost filler ingredient made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts and is treated with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria. It is also heated and spun to remove the fat, then shaped into blocks for mixing into conventional ground beef. Producers often mix it into fattier meat to create a cheaper, leaner product.
The pink slime has been on the market for years, but it doesn't have to be labeled as an ingredient in your ground beef since it is a beef product. Federal regulators said it meets standards for food safety.
But the investigation left a lot of people seeking information about the ground beef they buy at their local grocery stores. "Pink slime" has been one of the most searched phases on online search engines. So, NewsChannel5 contacted the corporate offices of chains in our region to get some answers. Here's what we found:
ACME FRESH MARKETS: A spokeswoman from the company said: "Acme Fresh Market offers ground beef without Lean Fat Beef Trimmings- our Certified Angus Beef ground beef and our Full Circle Grass Fed Ground Beef. Acme also sells USDA and FDA approved ground beef that contains Lean Beef Trimmings."
BUEHLER'S: The company's website said: "Buehler's Fresh Foods announced today (March 13) that the fresh Certified Angus Beef ground beef and patties sold in their stores contains none of the 'pink slime' that has been discussed in the media over the last few days."
COSTCO: A company spokesperson told ABC News it does not use "pink slime." "Anything that we sell at Costco we want to explain its origins, and I personally don't know how to explain trim treated with ammonia in our ground beef," Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance for Costco, told ABC News. "I just don't know how to explain that. I'm not that smart."
DAVE'S MARKETS: A company spokeswoman told NewsChannel5: "Dave's Markets has made the decision to no longer purchase fresh ground beef containing lean finely textured beef ( LFTB). All ground beef you find at your neighborhood Dave's Markets, is USDA-regulated, inspected and approved for food safety and quality."
EARTH FARE: A company spokeswoman told NewsChannel5: "Earth Fare's Ground Beef does not contain "pink slime" or "finely textured ground beef." At Earth Fare, our ground beef is ground fresh daily in-house using only whole primals, roasts and/or steaks. We do this to provide the best quality product and best eating experience for our customers!"
FISHERS FOODS: A company spokeswoman said its stores do not use "pink slime," and beef is ground up fresh at each store location by a butcher.
GIANT EAGLE: A company spokesman said Giant Eagle sells meats with and without the pink slime: "For those interested in ground beef produced without Boneless Lean Beef Trim, Giant Eagle offers a variety of choices including our Market District and Nature's Basket ground beef, as well as a number of branded beef products. Boneless Lean Beef Trim is government approved by both the USDA and the FDA and has been used safely for more than 20 years (see the attached Q&A from the American Meat Institute)."
On Thursday, the company released this updated statement: "Giant Eagle is committed to providing our customers with safe and high quality products, and we value their feedback on issues important to them. While Boneless Lean Beef Trim (BLBT) is USDA and FDA approved and has been considered safe and nutritious for more than 20 years, recent media attention on BLBT has prompted questions, confusion, and a decline in consumer confidence in the product. After careful review of feedback from our customers, Giant Eagle has decided that effective immediately the company will no longer source fresh ground beef containing BLBT."
Here is a link to that document referenced in the statement: http:// on.wews.com/GKc8IU
HEINEN'S : The company wrote on its Facebook page in response to a customer's question: "Absolutely not! There is no "pink slime" in Heinen's ground beef!"
KROGER: The company told the Associated Press: "Our customers have expressed their concerns that the use of lean finely textured beef -- while fully approved by the USDA for safety and quality -- is something they do not want in their ground beef. As a result, Kroger will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef."
MARC'S: The company told NewsChannel5 via Twitter response: "Marc's wants all of our customers to be assured that in checking with our beef supplier "pink slime" is not used in the production of any beef supplied to Marc's."
SUPERVALU : A company spokesperson told ABC News: "Effective today, SUPERVALU has made the decision to no longer purchase fresh ground beef containing finely textured beef for any of our traditional retail stores. These stores include Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw's/Star Market, Shop ‘n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy. We are currently working with our suppliers to implement this change. While it's important to remember there are no food safety concerns with products containing finely textured beef, this decision was made due to ongoing customer concerns over these products. All current beef products in our stores meet strict safety and quality standards approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture."
TARGET: A spokesperson told the Associated Press: "Our ground beef vendors do not use an ammonium hydroxide treatment in their production processes. Any additional questions can be directed to vendors."
WALMART & SAM'S CLUB: A company spokesperson told ABC News: "We spend a lot of time listening to customers and adjusting our product assortment to ensure we have the right products at the right prices. Recently some customers have expressed concerns with lean finely textured beef ( LFTB) and, while the USDA and experts agree that it is safe and nutritious, Walmart and Sam's Club will begin offering fresh ground beef that does not contain LFTB. We're committed to providing our customers with quality products at the right prices."
WHOLE FOODS: Whole Foods told ABC News it does not use pink slime.
ZAGARA'S MARKETPLACE: The company posted this on its Facebook page: "In response to the national media discussion regarding ground beef products, we want our customers to know that all of our fresh ground meat comes from actual trimmings. We only grind fresh block trimmings or whole muscle meat – never pre-ground off-site product."
Will you continue to buy ground beef that contains lean beef trimmings? Chime in via the comment box below.
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