HomeHealth & BehaviorHealth & Nutrition

Five ubiquitous foods to avoid

Take a stand for your child's health by steering clear of these dubious ingredients.

By GreatSchools Staff

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Pink slime beef


The culprit? Ammonia-treated "pink slime."

In a 2009 article, the New York Times delved into reports that the company that contributes to most of the fast food chains in the country as well as the federal school lunch program — Beef Products Inc. — had inefficient methods of treating their beef to rid it of E.coli and salmonella. BPI had developed a revolutionary method of treating beef trimmings with ammonia to render them safe for human consumption, but after complaints of the beef smelling strongly of ammonia, the company decreased the levels of ammonia in the treating process, thus making it less effective. The United States Department of Agriculture accepted studies by the company that certainly "beefed up" results and excused BPI meat from recalls, even when it was found in contaminated meat.

In response, BPI has launched a massive testing for poisonous strains of E.coli (only one strand is required by law; BPI is now testing for six others) in July of 2011. As test results are still not in and pathogens in meat keep evolving and, carnivores might do well to proceed with caution when chowing down at a barbeque or fast food chain. To help protect the public, the USDA published a 2010 report with 14 recommendations for how the industry can make beef safer, many of which have yet to be implemented.

Comments from readers

"So it's okay with the commenters below to eat beef that has been treated with ammonia?? That industrywide practice is not in dispute. You are so busy covering for your industry that common sense has been abandoned. "
"I can't believe it. This article places beef right there along with high-fructose corn syrup. This poor reporting on the beef and processing industry only sheds poor light on the beef industry and aims to scare consumers from eating it. Your site is losing credibility when it posts articles like this one. "
"U.S. meat is among the safest, most abundant and most affordable anywhere in the world. Despite this, the makers of 'Food, Inc.' and the subjects they interview seek to paint the meat industry as big, bad and mechanized. They seek to prove their point though a selective use of the facts. While the makers of 'Food, Inc.' have the right to state their opinions, consumers and the media have the right to the facts. And that’s why consumers are encouraged to visit: and These are sources designed to provide balanced, objective information to help consumers make informed choices. Information is from leading universities on common questions or issues about the contemporary US food system. "
"We no longer buy fruitsnacks because of what they have done to my toddler's teeth. He loves them. We would buy the all natural ones thinking they would be a healthy alternative to candy and sweets. Our dentist said the snacks stick to teeth and that is most likely the primary cause of his tooth decay. At age 2 he had deep, slightly discolored crevices in his molars that needed to be drilled and sealed. His older brother has no worrisome dental issues and rarely ate alot of fruit snacks."
"Wow. This is an absolute shame that you feel the need to quote blog posts and op eds as science fact. This article is fear mongering at its finest. Just the tuna/mercury thing alone is repulsive by itsef. Dr Hightower's 'study' was not scientific or double-blinded. She handpicked her group of patients. She conceded in the study's text that 'because only mercury was tested in these individuals, other contaminants responsible for symptoms cannot be ruled out.' In other words (her words): 'Cause and effect regarding symptoms was not fully addressed in this study.' Not to mention the press that she received YEARS ago for this was most likely to help her sell more books. Quoting some journalist's irresponsible experiment as fact is just wrong. Please take more care in the information you dispense to parents. "
"In reference to your article about hamburger: If I were this site, I would be very careful in selecting the information you send out so widely. The video 'Food, Inc' is filled with false information about the beef industry and agriculture in general. I am incensed that an educational site would publish this false information without studying the facts thoroughly. There are many industry groups who you could qualify the information with instead of a liberally biased group. I am involved in beef production and education and would like to see some research behind your articles. "
"I question this reasoning. I watch my local butcher make hamburger. He uses the thick roast and stuff that the sell as steaks ans such. He just takes some roasts, as the hamburger in the display case is low, and grinds it up and adds it to the hamburger display."
"If you are going to attempt to disparge the 'sources' of this information, then perhaps you yourself should provide a reliable 'source' to refute the information in this article. "
"There may also be a link between ADM, their intense lobbying pressure and dollars stuffed into Congressional pockets, and the legislation that helps subsidize corn growers and corn syrup makers."
"This article only tells half the story. What about suitable substitutes? Grind your own beef for hamburgers? Fresh fruit rather than fruit snacks?"
"Interesting article. I would instinctively agree with most of the findings. What concerns me and what makes me question the validity of your publication is that your 'expert' source in every instance is either a newspaper or a self proclaimed expert who has written a book. I think current experience has shown these are not the best source of facts. There is some proven validity in each of your cases, chemistry speaks for itself, but I think your conclusions about hamburger, in particular, are careless and too general. There is no question that the eating habits and food quality of our nation needs an overhaul, but credibility is based on solid facts not opinions. John E. Bragg PS I have no connection, nor have I ever had any connection with the food production industry. "