Ammonia Treated U.S. Beef Questioned

DAKOTA DUNES, S.D., Dec. 31 (UPI) — E.coli and salmonella pathogens were found dozens of times in school hamburgers processed by a company exempt from routine testing, a U.S. safety agency says.

The Beef Products Inc. meat, injected with ammonia in a novel method to destroy toxic bacteria, was caught before reaching lunchroom trays, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

The department, responsible for assuring food safety, has now revoked Beef Products’ exemption from routine testing and is reviewing the company’s operations, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The agency is also reviewing the company’s research supporting its ammonia-injection claims.

Since 2005, E.coli was found three times and salmonella 48 times in meat headed for the federal school lunch program, including incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound contaminated batches were found, government and industry records obtained by the Times show.

Besides the lunch program, the meat is used by McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants as well as grocery chains.

Beef Products of Dakota Dunes, S.D. — which persuaded federal officials to classify ammonia as a “processing agent” and not an ingredient that would be listed on labels — said in a statement it was committed to hamburger safety, but “like any responsible member of the meat industry, we are not perfect.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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