Salem's school superintendent says boneless lean beef trimmings, also known as "pink slime," are probably being served in Salem school lunches, but he doesn't think there is any health risk to students.
Superintendent Michael Delahanty said Salem schools purchase their beef from state Surplus Distribution, which gets the meat from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reportedly bought 7 million pounds of the so-called pink slime for the National School Lunch Program.
"There's no way of knowing, but yes, we're serving meat that probably has the product in it," he said.
Pink slime is a mixture of meat trimmings that are forcefully removed from bones and then exposed to ammonia gas in order to kill bacteria such as E. Coli. The result is a cheap product that can be mixed with beef products.
In response to public outcry, the USDA announced last week that it would allow schools in the National School Lunch Program to opt out of producers with the treated beef mixture. The agency still contends that the beef trimmings are "safe, nutritious and affordable" and have been used since the early 1990s.
Since the Salem school district's beef provider gets its meat from the USDA, Delahanty said there probably is some pink slime being served in the district's school lunches. But unlike , he said he has no plans to pull ground beef from school lunch menus at this point.
"I have not made any decision to pull hamburgers or any meals that have ground beef," he said. "In some respects, I think this is a knee-jerk reaction. LBT has been part of beef since the early '90s. We don't know that it has any side effects."
That said, Delahanty said he will take a close look at the consequences of continuing to use beef containing pink slime, and if there is determined to be a health risk, the school district will stop using it. But most likely, the beef containing lean beef trimmings will continue to be served for the rest of this school year.
He said the district has already been given the option by the USDA to buy beef without the lean beef trimmings, though he said there is an added expense associated with that decision.
"Looking forward, I will certainly consider seriously the impllications of purchasing with our without this," Delahanty said. "I would lean toward purchasing without, simply for the peace of mind it would offer. Not only school people, but certainly parents."