It came to my attention a few days ago that for the last EIGHT YEARS, Beef Products, Inc. has been treating low grade beef trimmings with ammonia in order to kill E.coli, Salmonella, Lysteria, and Staph to make the meat "safe for consumption."  It further came to my attention that this processing technique is recognized and deemed safe by the FDA. Further, because ammonia is known to be able to kill such pathogens, the FDA declared this treated beef exempt from pathogen testing. To add more insult to injury, the FDA allows this to be called a "processing agent" so it is not considered an "ingredient." This means there is no labeling requirement, and it can still be labeled as 100% beef.
Now, here is the next kick to our collective solar-plexus. Testing done on BPI beef from the federal school lunch program revealed that the pathogens are still in there! So, now there are pathogens AND ammonia. Wonderful. According to the New York Times story, "Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated." Do you remember the big story last July when the Kansas lunch officials banned BPI beef from their lunchrooms? The FDA did not alter its safety rating or endorsement of BPI meat as safe.
My question is this: HAVE WE ALL GONE STARK-RAVING MAD? According to an ABC news story, consumers back the practice of injecting ammonia into the meat if it will render it safe.  Are these people awake? Aware? Under hypnosis? Food safety regulation was on the table last January as bill HR875. It was supposed to revolutionize the industry, overhaul the safety measures, and make all our food safe. I believe, however, that its real goal was to give more power to BIG AG and BIG PHARMA Corporatism, and to outlaw the roadside stand.
We cannot rely on government to keep our food safe if they are humptydumptying the very concept of safe. Merriam Webster says "safe" means "free from harm or risk...secure from the threat of danger." The FDA has determined that safe is whatever they determine it to mean. At a certain number of parts per million, the FDA says ammonia is safe to consume in meat.
In my world, ammonia is a toxin not approved for consumption, so is not safe as a food additive. According to the ammonia data on the government's Department of Health and Human Services website under the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the following is true: This information is important because this substance may harm you. The effects of exposure to any hazardous substance depend on the dose, the duration, how you are exposed, personal traits and habits, and whether other chemicals are present.  This government document includes a section called "how might I be exposed to ammonia?", but it fails to mention beef from McDonald's or Burger King or any other food supplier as a source.
While ammonia can be naturally occurring in our environment, and even in food, it doesn't follow that humans should be nonchalant about it being purposely and (until now) secretly injected into the food supply. It does not follow that, because the FDA says this poison is "generally recognized as safe", we shouldn't get to be informed of its existence in our beef.
In my opinion, it is not possible to keep our food supply safe on such a national and global level WITHOUT the use of poisons and chemical treatments to kill pathogens and prolong its shelf life. The food industry knows this. They have to establish their own definition of "safe" so that they can assure us of the safety of these poisons. The answer is that we all stop eating food that travelled more than 250 miles to get to us. Take back your food rights on a local level. Encourage safe practices by farms at a local level. Demand that we dismantle the current FDA and BIG AG, and begin again with small farms all over the U.S.
Eat ZERO fast food until this occurs. Eat ZERO ground beef unless it was a cut of meat that you ground yourself at home. Purchased from a local raiser of organic, grassfed beef. Precisely due to safety concerns, I gave up beef and fast food some years ago when practices resulting in mad cow and "downer cattle" came to light. I believe that we are now more thoroughly lost in Upton Sinclair's Jungle than we ever were before. Only now, it's government endorsed.
Beef: What's really for dinner?Further reading on this issue:
New York Times
ABC News story: Consumers Back Ammonia
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (.gov)
Lawyers and Settlements.com
You might also be interested to know that your beef may have been fed
Zilmax prior to slaughter (http://www.intervetusa.com/species/cattle/index.aspx) (Zilmax drug application pdf on fda.gov), and may have been treated with carbon monoxide (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/19/AR2006021901101.html). Oh, but those practices are also safe, says the FDA, so don't worry.