AUBURN, Mass. - Following a recent policy change by the USDA, the media frenzy surrounding "pink slime" - less known as "lean finely textured beef (LFTB) additive in school lunch meat has been a topic of discussion by the Auburn School Committee and APS Food Service Director Ann Pitzen.
Information provided to the School Committee by Pitzen, describes LFTB as 90 percent lean beef injected with small amounts of ammonium hydroxide to eliminate microorganisms, an important step for food safety.
Ammonium Hydroxide has been used to make foods safe since 1974, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared it as a "Generally Recognized as Safe" or a GRAS compound.
Since the early 1990's, LFTB has been allowed as a component of ground beef but starting in the Fall of 2012, the USDA will be required to list whether the additive LFTB is included.
According to Pitzen, the district typically offers turkey or chicken products whenever available as a healthier menu option and makes limited use of ground beef.
"Our first choice is to make sure what we're serving is healthy," Pitzen said.
Following the recent changes by the USDA, Pitzen reached out to food providers to inquire about the use of ammonium hydroxide in their products.
Last week, Pitzen shared several emails with School Committee members to confirm that beef providers for Auburn Public Schools do not use ammonia hydroxide in their products.
"Recently there have been articles discussing the use of ammonia hydroxide in LFTB and we would like to clarify our position on the subject. Even though the process of using ammonia hydroxide to manufacture LFTB beef is approved by the USDA and has been approved to be wholesome and safe, Advance Pierre Foods made the decision not to purchase ammonia treated beef for use in our school products," Auburn Public School beef provider Don Fieler of Advance Pierre Foods wrote on February 6, 2012.
Augustus D. Martucci, president of Mutual Beef Co. based in Boston, MA also confirmed no use of the GRAS compound.
"Please be assured that here at Mutual Beef Co. Inc. 'Ammonium Hydroxide' is not being used in any of our ground beef," Martucci wrote on February 2, 2012.
Superintendent Maryellen Brunelle also stated that the food served at Auburn Public Schools is and will remain safe for students and staff.
"To ensure that we do not purchase ground beef with the LFTB addictive - the Auburn Public Schools will purchase only directly through Thurston Foods, Advanced Pierre Foods, and Mutual Beef Co. all of whom have sent written notification that their companies will not utilize LFTB in its processing, nor have they done so to date," Brunelle said.