Pink Slime: The New Gak?

Has all of this talk about pink slime reminded anyone else of Gak? You know, the gross slime-like substance in neon colors used for both a toy and a gross-out punishment on shows like “What Would You Do?”

I’m picturing hamburgers held together by a substance (not unlike its cousin oobleck) that manages to both ooze and glue at the same time. Said hamburgers are doled out by lunchladies wearing bright blue eyeshadow up to their eyebrows and neon pink lipstick stains on their teeth. The lunchladies laugh menacingly as each student grabs a tray piled high with burgers and cold, soggy fries.

Pink slime/Gak may be a funny plaything for eight-year-olds, but I’m going to stand with Marion Nestle’s critique of the “food” and its supporters. She argues that sure, pink slime (or the less pejorative Lean Finely Textured Beef) is “safe” (read: not contaminated with e. coli) and uses up meat that would otherwise be considered food waste. The bigger problem is that major beef producers are creating a product thatĀ needsĀ to be treated with chemicals in order to be free of disease. If beef were processed in factory with no risk of e. coli or other contaminants, scrap meat could be included in hamburger blends with no complaints. It may not make the absolute finest burger, but at least we wouldn’t be knowingly feeding school kids chemicals and trash.

I’m sure I have unknowingly eaten some amount of the slime over the course of my life, just as I have also eaten my fare share of other foods with questionable scientific pedigree (GMO corn, anyone?). I am generally healthy and not too much worse the wear from it. But my current health, as well as everyone else’s, is not the issue at hand in the pink slime debate. The problem is cultural. Instead of fixing a problem like disease ridden beef by killing the source of the disease itself, our country’s major food producers (and the government organizations that sponsor them) are content to slap some chemicals on the problem and call it safe. No one really knows what kind of long term consequences we will face from solutions like these, but they’ve got to be worse than the occasional cholesterol spike from eating a well-made and well-sourced cheeseburger from your own kitchen.

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