When it comes to floors and bathrooms, no one can deny that ammonia is a great cleaning agent. Those outside the food production industry might be surprised to learn that ammonia is also used as an antibacterial wash on processed beef products, as part of a common practice to tenderize and decontaminate otherwise inedible meat trimmings. But the tide could be turning on ammonia. This week McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King all vowed to discontinue the use of ammonium hydroxide compounds (known to some as “pink slime”) in the making of their beef products.
According to several reports, Jamie Oliver may be able to claim a hand in this new development. The celebrity chef lambasted the additive on his show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, calling out the FDA for so much as allowing the practice and petitioning the USDA to make fast food restaurants include the chemical in their ingredient lists. Other reports note the role of food industry documentary Food Inc. in raising awareness about ammonium hydroxide.
According to spokespeople from McDonald’s, the decision to go ammonia-free was one made internally and had nothing to do with outside influences like Oliver or documentaries. “The decision to discontinue its use was not related to any particular event, but rather a result of our efforts to align our standards for beef around the world,” Todd Bacon, McDonald’s USA Senior Director of Quality Systems, told Canada’s National Post.
That may be true, but negative publicity surrounding the chemical couldn’t possibly have helped. But to those who worry that McDonald’s hamburger meat will now hold a higher risk for bacteria – don’t worry. Reports have indicated that “ammoniated beef” has still turned up a culprit behind E. coli and salmonella outbreaks. So it’s not like we’re losing the safety. Just the chemicals.