A Pennsylvania-based beef producer filed for bankruptcy Monday, saying in court documents that it is a casualty of the ongoing controversy over the use of so-called "pink slime" beef filler in some of its products.
The company based in King of Prussia, Montgomery County, employs about 850 people, according to Bloomberg. Beef Products Inc., one of AFA’s competitors and the largest producer of the filler product, has also experienced a dramatic decline in sales and closed three of its four plants last week, according to Reuters.
Triggering the outcry: criticism from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and reports from ABC and other news agencies about the product the beef industry calls lean finely textured beef—scraps that have been processed, heated and treated with ammonia to kill bacteria. The product had been added to fast food, school lunches and 70 percent of all ground beef sold at grocery stores.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and beef industry officials have said the product is safe to consume. The USDA, however, now will permit school districts to opt out of using beef supplies that contain it in school lunches.
Many fast-food and major grocery chains also have suspended sales of beef containing the product. Among those groceries is O'Hara-based Giant Eagle, which last week announced that its stores—including those in Western Pennsylvania—no longer would sell the product.
"Giant Eagle is committed to providing our customers with safe and high-quality products, and we value their feedback on issues important to them, the company said in a statement.
"While boneless lean beef trim is USDA- and (Food and Drug Administration)-approved and has been considered safe and nutritious for more than 20 years, recent media attention on BLBT has prompted questions, confusion, and a decline in consumer confidence in the product," the company noted in its statement.
"After careful review of feedback from our customers, Giant Eagle has decided that effective immediately the company will no longer source fresh ground beef containing BLBT."
Should this product remain on the market? Is it safe to consume? Are you comfortable eating burgers or other products that contain it?
What do you think? Tell us in the comments!