POSTED: Friday, March 16, 2012 - 9:30am
UPDATED: Friday, March 16, 2012 - 9:34am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — A beef product dubbed "pink slime" by critics and frequently found in school lunches has come under scrutiny for its nutritional value and how it's made.
The USDA, under increasing pressure from parents and consumer advocates, announced it is giving schools the choice not to buy products made with beef trimmings.
Starting in the fall schools will be able to choose 95-percent lean ground beef made with the trimmings, or ground beef that is less lean, but doesn't contain the product.
It's official name is Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings, left-over muscle meat that is separated from the fat with heat and treated with a commonly used ammonia wash to kill bacteria before being blended with ground beef.
The USDA says the process meets federal regulations.
The beef industry says the process has been around for 20 years and is safe.
"This really is a great process that helps us from wasting beef from the cattle that we process," says the American Meat Institute's Janet Riley, "and we do it under federal inspections so that its safe and nutritious."
Others, including one Houston mom, disagree.
She used her blog, TheLunchTray.com, as a platform for a petition asking the USDA to get it off school menus.
Within a week, she had 225,000 signatures.
The USDA says it made the changes after school districts asked for options.