Click photo to enlarge

Bowing to public pressure, Safeway said Wednesday it will no longer use a controversial filler called "pink slime'' in its hamburger meat.

Safeway, the nation's second-largest supermarket chain, joins several other stores, including Whole Foods, Costco and Nob Hill Foods, in rejecting hamburger with the filler, called lean finely textured beef by retailers, the meat industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Whole Foods and Costco say their hamburger has never contained the filler.

"Safeway is committed to providing our customers with the highest-quality products. While the USDA and food industry experts agree that lean finely textured beef is safe and wholesome, recent news stories have caused considerable consumer concern about this product. Safeway will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef," the Pleasanton-based grocery chain said in a statement.

The filler is a meat product made from fat trimmings that are heated so that small traces of lean meat can be separated and added back to the ground beef.

Walmart and Sam's Club also announced Wednesday they will begin offering fresh ground beef products that don't contain the filler. So did Supervalu, which owns Acme, Albertsons and other stores, The Associated Press reported.

The controversy over pink slime erupted after an online campaign by parents of schoolchildren forced the Department of Agriculture to offer school districts a choice of buying ground beef with or without the filler starting with the next school year.

But the outrage didn't stop with school lunches as consumers expressed concerns about ground beef containing the filler being sold in grocery stores without their knowledge.


Advertisement

SaveMart Supermarkets, which owns Lucky's, continues to sell ground beef with the filler, which SaveMart's website says is not an ammonia-treated product, as an in-house brand, but also sells other types of hamburger without it.

After hearing the words pink slime pop up in news stories earlier this month, Sandra Fiorenza stopped buying hamburger.

"It sounded gross. It made you want to become a vegetarian once again," Fiorenza said while shopping at a Safeway in Walnut Creek.

Now, Fiorenza says, she will buy ground beef from Safeway but would like to see some clear labeling on the product.

"We didn't know what it was in the first place. How are we going to know now?" she said.

The American Meat Institute says the filler is not labeled as a separate ingredient because it is 100 percent beef.

The new policy starts immediately and also applies to Safeway-owned stores that operate under different names such as Pak 'N Save stores. Existing ground beef products will not be removed from stores. "There will be a short transition period while we adjust supplies," Teena Massingill, a spokeswoman for Safeway, wrote in an email.

The announcement by Safeway brought praise from a grass-roots community whose aim is to build a sustainable food system.

"I think it's great that Safeway has chosen to no longer sell pink slime in their meat. I certainly hope more corporations, more grocery stores that sell meat will be responsible as a result," said David Murphy, founder and executive director of Clear Lake, Iowa-based Food Democracy Now.

Earlier this month, the Raley's chain of supermarkets, which includes Nob Hill Foods, said it would stop selling frozen hamburger patties that contain lean finely textured beef.

"Recently, some news reports have referred to these trimmings as pink slime. Raley's does not use 'LFTB' in any of our fresh ground beef products or in our Raley's Black Angus frozen beef patties because all of our fresh ground beef comes from sources that are free of 'LFTB.' We do sell frozen burger patties that contain 'LFTB' but we have made a decision going forward to discontinue selling those frozen hamburger patties. We made this decision based on customer desire to buy ground beef without 'LFTB,' " Raley's said in a statement.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-952-2690.

what is 'PINK Slime'?

The filler is a meat product made from fat trimmings that are heated so that small traces of lean meat can be separated and added back to the ground beef.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture