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Outrage. That's the only word to describe the recent pink slime controversy. Consumers are upset that pink slime is in their beef. They're also upset that the process used to make pink slime involves ammonia.
Putting aside the gross factor, should Americans really be concerned about ammonia in food? Or is the entire thing being blown out of proportion?
Experts suggest the latter option. Ammonia has been part of the U.S. food supply for nearly 40 years. In 1974, the Food and Drug Administration approved ammonia as a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) substance. These are food substances that have been shown, via scientific study, to be safe under the conditions of their intended use.
Ammonium phosphate, ammonium chloride and ammonium hydroxide, in small amounts, have been deemed safe for human consumption, according to Reuters. That's why you can find them in many a product.
The first two are salts, according to Kraft spokeswoman Angela Wiggins. They are used to activate yeast in dough and to help control the acidity in cheese and chocolate, she told Reuters. Ammonium hydroxide, which is the ammonia of pink slime fame, is a processing aid. It's used to kill deadly bacteria.
Gary Acuff, director of Texas A&M University's Center for Food Safety echoed these statements. "We use ammonia in all kinds of foods," he explained at a press conference hosted by Beef Products Inc. It's de rigueur for the high-tech food industry.
And perhaps this is the problem. Health experts have always known about ammonia in food, but consumers have not. Pink slime has changed that, and now consumers want more information. And perhaps they should get it.