"Pink slime," the beef product that made headlines earlier this year, is no longer a part of most public school lunches. The nation's school districts are choosing alternatives to the filler.
Most schools participating in the National School Lunch Program, launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have decided to skip on ordering the product.
Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota were the only three states who chose to order beef containing “pink slime.”
The product, known as lean finely textured beef, has been used for decades and is safe to eat, federal regulators say.
The national hubbub over the product came when the nickname "pink slime" was coined in a New York Times article on the safety of meat processing methods.
The “slime” is made of fatty bits of beef that are heated then treated with ammonia to kill bacteria.
The USDA responded to public concern over its use in March. The agency said it would for the first time offer schools the choice to purchase beef without the filler for the coming 2012-2013 school year.
Based upon the misrepresentations that have been pervasive in the media to this point, it comes as no surprise that the majority of states have currently elected to purchase ground beef that does not contain lean finely textured beef," Craig Letch, Beef Products Inc. director of food safety and quality.
Though the option is on the table, the USDA has affirmed that lean finely textured beef is a safe, affordable and nutritious product that reduces overall fat content.
Beef Products Inc., the South Dakota company that makes the filler, said in an emailed statement that the development is not reflective of the quality or safety of the beef it produces.
"Based upon the misrepresentations that have been pervasive in the media to this point, it comes as no surprise that the majority of states have currently elected to purchase ground beef that does not contain lean finely textured beef," Craig Letch, Beef Products Inc. director of food safety and quality, said in the statement.
Back in March, the company's former director of food safety, Kit Foshee did not run to BPI's defense.
"BPI is marketing themselves as a pinnacle of safety," Foshee said. "It's all lies. It's all marketing."
To combat misconceptions, the company has set up a website, beefisbeef.com.
As of May 18, the USDA says states ordered more than 20 million pounds of ground beef products that don't contain lean finely textured beef. Orders for beef that may contain the filler came to about 1 million pounds.
Because schools were not given a choice last year, all states may have previously received beef with the product mixed in. The USDA estimates that lean finely textured beef accounted for about 6.5 percent of ground beef orders.
The agency is still accepting orders for the upcoming school year; beef that does not contain the product is expected to cost 3 percent more than beef that contains it.
The USDA purchases LFTB from beef vendors who must meet the agency's specifications for orders; no more than 15 percent of the product.
About 60 percent of the ground beef acquired by schools was through the USDA's National School Lunch Program. The rest are acquired directly by schools through private meat vendors.
Schools aren't the only ones rejecting the product. Fast food chains and supermarkets have also jumped on the bandwagon and promised to stop selling beef containing “pink slime.”
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.