Jamie Oliver has done some great work in promoting healthy eating, however his recent attack on the “pink slime” used in some meat products in the USA reeks of scientific illiteracy and self promotion.
Prior to 1991, the various trimmings left over once a cow had been butchered were typically used to make dog food. However, an enterprising American company, Beef Products Inc, developed a process whereby these trimmings could be treated and centrifuged to remove most of the fat and produce a meaty slurry consisting of around 94% lean beef, which Mr Oliver refers to as “pink slime”.
As part of this process the meat is treated with ammonia gas in order to kill off Salmonella and E. coli bacteria. A sensible approach to food safety as very little ammonia/ammonium hydroxide remains in the final product. Furthermore, small traces of either are not a health concern (indeed, in Europe some forms of liquorice have ammonium chloride added to give it a salty taste).
While this process probably does not sound particularly appealing, the product is both safe and contains very little fat. Up to 15% of this product can be added to meat products in the USA, including at McDonalds – at least until Mr Oliver started kicking up a fuss – McDonalds has now stopped the use of this meat product.
Here is the clip where Oliver “demonstrates” how this pink slime is produced. If you ask me the final product doesn’t look too bad at all.
Notice how he says “this is how I imagine the process to be…” – ever thought of actually doing some research Jamie?
Also notice how dramatic he is in showing how “dangerous” the ammonia solution is. I wonder if he realizes that in a chemistry lab, his kitchen grade vinegar would be considered just as hazardous – I don’t see him calling for a ban on vinaigrettes.
As distasteful as Mr Oliver seems to think this product is, not everyone can afford top grade sirloin steaks. And it seems to me in a world which is becoming more focused on sustainability and reducing our effect on the environment that the better use of animal products is a good thing. (Of course, reducing meat consumption is even better for the environment, but that is another story).
Educating the public about what they is eating is a good thing. Using misinformation and hyperbole to do so is not.