When concern over the beef additive known as “pink slime” erupted last month, concerned parents of students in Chicago Public Schools had their fears that the substance was included in school lunches laid to rest by school officials. They were assured student lunches were free of the chemically treated beef product, but now, officials at CPS aren’t so sure.
According to a report published by the Chicago Tribune, school officials -- after denying original concerns that their lunches may have contained the altered beef product -- learned only nine days later they may have been wrong.
"We gave the best information we had at the time, and it was accurate from what we knew,” said CPS spokesman Robyn Ziegler. “It’s very possible that none of the beef had been delivered to CPS. But in order to eliminate any doubt about that we eliminated the delivery of that beef to our schools.”
Pink slime, as it’s come to be known, garnered criticism for its use as an inexpensive filler in beef products served in fast-food restaurants and various public school cafeteria’s around the country. It’s made of beef trimmings and connective tissue which are then heated and treated with ammonia gas. The resulting blend – a bright pink and slimy substance -- is then used in as much as 15 percent of the patty. Those patties may have been served in lunches at CPS.
Since its original finding, CPS believes it has pinpointed the source of the altered beef, and has severed ties with California-based Don Lee Farms. As of March 22, officials say they have also removed all beef supplied by the farm from its storage warehouses.
But despite these measures, the choice remains in the hands of decision-makers at CPS. Lean finely texturized beef, or LFTB, was first allowed to be served in schools in 1993 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This month, the USDA said it would leave the choice whether or not to buy beef containing the filler up to individual school districts.
So far, CPS remains adamant on its exclusion from school lunches.
"(LFTB) had become a concern so we took action," Ziegler said. "We want to make sure we know what we're serving and that it's of good quality."