raw meat

Think “pink slime” was the end of it? Think again. 

More and more U.S. consumers are demanding that companies label what’s in our food, as evidenced by the hugely successful “Just Label It” campaign to encourage the government to require that food producers label products that include GMO ingredients. And the recent debacle about the inclusion of pink slime in beef products fed to our children proves that consumers are becoming more and more savvy and concerned about what’s in our food.

But even if we win those hard-fought labels, we may not be any happier with what we read there.

The USDA allows lots of chemicals and other ingredients to be in and on our food without requiring that those ingredients show up on the label. This document from the USDA lists dozens of chemicals that meat producers can legally add to their product without any requirement to label it. 

Ammonia, the chemical that caused most of the stir over pink slime, is only one of the noxious chemicals being applied to help disinfect our meat. The document lists calcium hypochlorite, which is used to clean swimming pools; hypobromous acid, used to de-germ hot tubs; and chlorine dioxide, which is used to bleach wood pulp. In other words, not stuff you’d normally stock in your kitchen cabinets. 

But the weirdest part of this is that the USDA requires the meat industry to list certain anti-microbials—like lemon, salt and other spices—on their labels, but not these hard to pronounce chemicals. The fact that our meat must be chemically disinfected before it’s sold to us has been kept quiet by both the meat industry and the USDA, and is really a symptom of a larger problem with our food production in this country.

Unfortunately, it looks like pink slime is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dirty little secrets of our food industry. And the more we educate ourselves as consumers, the angrier we’re going to get. 

image: VirtualErn