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Oral Care and Health Daily

Is There Pink Slime in Your Burgers?

Up to 70 percent of ground beef contains this unsavory food additive. But after a recent consumer up...

I used to ogle over burgers. In fact, just a couple of months ago, I even wrote about how burgers could fit into a heart-healthy diet. Now, I’ve got to admit that I’m grossed out by them.

Last month, ABC News broke the story that 70 percent of ground beef sold at the supermarket contains something a former USDA scientist dubbed “pink slime” -- a filler composed mainly of connective tissue and treated with ammonia. Yuck! Watch the report here.

The most maddening part: This filler (known in the food industry as “lean finely textured beef”) isn’t labeled … and it doesn’t have to be! ABC News followed up by sending producers to supermarkets across the country to see if the ground beef sold there contained pink slime. Most stores didn’t know, but the corporate offices of Publix, Whole Foods Market, Costco and H-E-B said their beef doesn’t contain this ingredient. Check out the story here.

I do most of my grocery shopping at Wegmans, a chain, so I tried to find out if the beef I’ve been buying for years contained pink slime. Apparently, it did. A week after ABC aired the story, Wegmans and a slew of other chains (including Kroger, Safeway, and Supervalu, as well as restaurants such as McDonald’s) announced that they would no longer sell meat with the filler due to customer requests. Geez, if you asked customers from the start if they wanted this in their beef, I bet they would have told you “No way!”

Since my family has apparently been eating slimed beef for the last 10 years, I called Dawn Jackson Blatner -- a Chicago-based registered dietitian and food expert, and author of The Flexitarian Diet -- to see if it was harmful. “Probably not,” she told me. “It’s less nutritious than ground beef with it, but it’s not unsafe.”

“I haven’t made a burger since the news broke,” I confess to her. Her response: “We all should be eating more plant-based foods -- fruits, veggies and beans -- and this is good motivation to change eating habits and shake up your diet.”

She’s got a valid point there. With summer coming up, and with produce at its best and cheapest, lighter food is definitely in order. I also found out that beef that is labeled “organic” definitely does not contain pink slime -- no matter where you buy it. Sure, it’s more expensive. But if we cut back the burgers to once or twice a month, it really won’t make a difference in my overall grocery budget.

Will you cut back on beef too -- or even give it up altogether? I will never look at a cheeseburger in the same way.