Beef Industry is Not the Only One to Add Ammonia to Food
The aftershocks from last month’s news reports about ammonia-treated beef are still reverberating through the nation.
Pink slime—a term coined by a former government scientist—is frequently used filler for ground beef. It is “made from fatty trimmings that are more susceptible to contamination than other cuts of beef…and are therefore sprayed with ammonium hydroxide—ammonia mixed with water,” according to Science News.
Outraged consumers are pushing for greater transparency across the food industry. “I think we’re seeing a sea change today in consumers’ concerns about the presence of ingredients in foods, and this [pink slime] is just one example,” said Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety, in an interview with Science News.
A Long Hidden History
As more evidence about industry practices comes to light, it’s become apparent that U.S. health officials cleared ammonia for use in making many foods nearly 40 years ago.
Though U.S. health officials still deem pink slime safe for human consumption, hundreds of U.S. school districts are demanding that it be removed from school lunch programs. In addition, several leading fast-food chains and supermarkets are condemning the product in the wake of the public outcry.
Is Ammonia Safe?
Research has shown that ammonia can raise the risk of cancer by inhalation and ingestion. Further more, scientists are unsure of how the body eliminates ammonia that is ingested.
Elevated ammonia levels can cause:
• Serious health problems over the long term
Despite claims that this additive is safe, many companies will not reveal whether they use ammonia, either as an additive or in the processing of their products. This suggests that perhaps this food additive is not as harmless as we are told.
Many Foods Contain Ammonia
“Ammonia’s not an unusual product to find added to food,” said Gary Acuff, director of Texas A&M University’s Center for Food Safety. “We use ammonia in all kinds of foods in the food industry,” Acuff continued. The list includes, but is not limited to, baked goods, cheese, and chocolate items such as:
• Cadbury chocolate
• Chips Ahoy cookies
• Velveeta cheese products
According to Michael Simon, public health lawyer and president of watchdog consulting firm Eat Drink Politics: “The food supply is full of all sorts of chemical additives that people don’t know about.” But if the pink slime incident is an indicator of things to come, then it would seem consumers are beginning to take more interest in what goes into our food. Perhaps the tide is changing for the better.