The low-cost filler is made from fatty meat scraps that are heated to remove most of the fat, then treated with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria.
At least three national supermarket operators have decided to stop buying ground beef that contains the filler now known as "pink slime."
Federal regulators say the filler, known in the industry as lean, finely textured beef, meets food safety standards. But critics say the product could be unsafe and is an unappetizing example of industrialized food production.
Safeway Inc., which operates the Genuardi's and Dominick's chains as well as Safeway stores, announced it would stop selling fresh or frozen ground beef with the filler.
Giant Food, a regional supermarket chain, announced on Thursday they too will no longer purchase fresh ground beef containing the finely textured beef at any of their 173 stores. A Giant Food spokesperson told News4 many customers reached out and voiced their concerns regarding the safety of the filler.
Supervalu Inc., which operates stores under the ACME, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw's/Star Market, Shop 'n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy banners, said Wednesday that customer concern also prompted it to stop carrying products containing the filler.
The Food Lion chain, owned by the Belgian Delhaize Group, said Wednesday that it plans to stop carrying fresh ground beef with either of two similar fillers. Both are made with beef trimmings left over from other cuts.
Spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown emailed a statement saying that the company is working with suppliers to make the change and that the company guarantees the "80 percent lean ground beef" it already sells doesn't contain the fillers.
Food Lion also operates Bloom, Harvey's and Reid's stores.
Kroger Co. and Stop & Shop also said Thursday that they would stop selling beef that includes the additive.
Whole Foods, A&P and Costco said they have never sold beef products with the additive.
Public outcry over "pink slime" has grown sharply as images, media reports and online petitions about it have spread.
The low-cost additive, which has been used for years, is made from fatty bits of leftover meat that are heated, spun to remove the fat, compressed into blocks and exposed to ammonia to kill bacteria. Producers often mix the filler into fattier meat to produce an overall leaner product and reduce their costs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this month that, beginning in the fall, the National School Lunch Program would let school districts decide whether to buy ground beef that contains the filler. Previously, it was difficult for schools to know whether beef they bought from the feds had it or not.
As a result, a number of schools have said they will stop using meat with the controversial filler.
Some schools in our area have contacted their food vendors to ensure this product wasn't in the food they were serving to students.
“When this issue first arose, we immediately contacted our food companies and asked if this was an ingredient in the beef that we buy from them," Anne Arundel County Public Schools spokesman Bob Mosier said. "We were told it is not. We intend to continue to elect not to use products that contain this ingredient.”