JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – BI-LO/Winn-Dixie and Hy-Vee have become the latest US supermarket chains to announce they will no longer purchase fresh ground beef containing lean finely textured beef (LFTB).

LFTB meets federal food-safety standards and has been used in processing ground beef for years. But critics recently denounced the product as unsafe, referred to it as “pink slime” and charged it is an example of unsavory food manufacturing practices the food industry is trying to hide from consumers. Industry and scientific proponents of the process strongly deny these allegations and maintain this process has been scientifically proven safe years ago.

Both retailers issued press releases on their moves.

“BI-LO and Winn-Dixie are committed to offering quality foods and services at a great value,” one release stated. “Customer reaction in response to recent reports on LFTB have put into question the USDA-approved process. Today [March 23], BI-LO and Winn-Dixie announce we will no longer purchase fresh ground beef containing LFTB.”

Hy-Vee relayed it also decided to discontinue the purchase of ground beef products containing LFTP in response to customer concerns. “Although this ground beef meets all USDA standards for quality and safety, recent news stories have led to a loss of consumer confidence in the product,” Hy-Vee stated. “We have notified our suppliers of this decision and are working to switch our product lines as quickly as possible. We want to thank our customers for sharing their feedback on this issue and assure them Hy-Vee will continue to listen and respond to their concerns, just as our company has been doing for more than 80 years.”

“It's interesting that all of the focus is on the one component of ground beef that has never been implicated in a case or outbreak of foodborne disease or a single recall,” James Marsden, Ph.D., Regent’s Distinguished Professor of Food Safety and Security, Kansas State Univ., associate director of the Biosecurity Research Institute located at KSU and North American Meat Processors Association senior science advisor, told MEATPOULTRY.com in commenting on the LFTB controversy.

BI-LO Holding is the ninth-largest traditional supermarket chain in the US. The company employs 63,000 team members working for stores under the banner names of BI-LO and Winn-Dixie who serve customers in 688 grocery stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Hy-Vee Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating 235 retail stores in eight Midwestern states. It ranks among the top 25 supermarket chains and the top 50 private companies in the US.