‘Pink slime’ still on the menu for lunch

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Even though Taco Bell and McDonald’s have banished “pink slime” from their menus, New York City public schools will continue to serve it to students until the fall.

The product, nicknamed “pink slime,” is a low-cost meat filler made from fatty scraps of beef that are treated with ammonia to kill bacteria.

Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer demanded that the Department of Education follow in the footsteps of cities like Boston, Los Angeles and Memphis in abolishing the slime from school lunches immediately.

“The slaughterhouse floor is not where our kids’ lunches should be prepared,” Stringer said yesterday. “When New York City lags behind McDonald’s and Taco Bell in their standards for food quality, you know something’s awry.”

Currently, the DOE purchases beef produces that contain the filler from the United States Department of Agriculture and uses it to make school meatballs, hamburgers and taco meat-toppings, DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said.

The USDA announced last week that it will offer schools the option to purchase beef without the byproduct in the fall.

“We spoke to the USDA and urged them to change their policy, which we are gratified that they did by giving school districts the option to eliminate it,” said Feinberg. “We are in the process of phasing this out and will eliminate it entirely in September.”

Feinberg said that the DOE purchases some meat with pink slime from the USDA, but other vendors’ beef does not contain it. Feinberg expects the new USDA beef product offered in the fall will likely cost city schools more, but the USDA has not yet released the new price information.

A parent’s dilemma

Manhattan mom Layla Law-Gisiko, who is the
chair of Community Board 5′s Education, Housing and Human Services
committee, has two children in New York City public schools and said she
was appalled by the news that city schools continue to serve meat made
with the ammonia-treated filler.

“Pink slime is simply revolting,” Law-Gisiko said. “Our children deserve better.”

She
said she made lunches for her 8 and 10 year-old to bring to school
every day last year, but since students can’t refrigerate their
home-made meals, her kids got sick of sandwiches.

“Sandwiches aren’t even that healthy,” Law-Gisiko said. “It’s a shame the hot food option is not healthy either.”

A surprising choice for a healthy city

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made it his mission to curb New Yorkers’ intake of salt, trans-fats and sugary sodas.

The Department of Education has made a number of changes to public school lunches since 2004, including replacing whole milk with 1% low fat and skim milk and trading white bread for whole wheat.

Items like French fries are baked, not fried and vending machines in schools cannot sell any products with artificial sweeteners.

Citing student health and problems with obesity, in 2009 the DOE even cracked down on bake sales, severely restricted the types of goodies parents and kids can sell at them.

However, Bloomberg has remained mum on the serving of the meat filler to students.

For more local news, follow Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter @EmilyAEpstein.


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