WASHINGTON, and DAKOTA DUNES, SD – Meat industry stakeholders are speaking out against negative reports surrounding the use of boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT) in the food supply.

Beef Products Inc. has come under fire for a process it developed that uses the compound ammonium hydroxide to rid the trimmings of foodborne pathogens such as E. coli. McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell reportedly stopped using lean beef trimmings treated with ammonium hydroxide.

But the Food and Drug Administration designated ammonium hydroxide as "generally recognized as safe" for use in food by the Food and Drug Administration in 1974. In addition to use in beef trimmings, ammonium hydroxide has been used as a leavening agent in baked foods. In 2001, the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service approved the use of ammonium hydroxide as a food safety tool.

"At Beef Products, Inc., we produce lean beef from trim. Trim is the meat and fat that is trimmed away when beef is cut into steaks and roasts. This lean beef is used in hamburger, sausage, ground beef, and as a valuable ingredient in many other foods," the company said in a statement.

"We use a natural compound – called ammonium hydroxide, which is widely used in the processing of numerous foods, such as baked goods, cheeses, gelatins, chocolate, caramels, and puddings – to slightly increase the pH level in beef and improve its safety," the statement continued.

The American Meat Institute weighed in on the subject, saying recent media reports had created an inaccurate impression of boneless lean beef trimmings by calling it "pink slime".

"The fact is, BLBT is beef," said J. Patrick Boyle, president of AMI. "The beef trimmings that are used to make BLBT are absolutely edible.

"In fact, no process can somehow make an inedible meat edible; it's impossible," he added. "In reality, the BLBT production process simply removes fat and makes the remaining beef more lean and suited to a variety of beef products that satisfy consumers’ desire for leaner foods."

Boyle went on to say that that boneless lean beef trimmings are a sustainable product because the process makes use of lean meat that would otherwise be thrown away.