In our schools?

When the news hit it went viral.  “Pink slime” has been part of the beef fed to countless students across the country.  With all the things that parents have to worry about, in my opinion, this should not be one of them.  I was envious when a friend of mine mentioned that the superintendent of her children’s school sent a letter informing all community families that it was not an issue in their district.  That not only do they source their beef locally but it’s also not washed with any of those nasty chemicals to kill bacteria and disease.  How nice it would have been to receive a similar letter from our superintendent but if I waited for one I’d never find out if it was an issue or not in our schools.  So I began sending emails with two main questions:  Is “pink slime” part of the beef offered in our school lunches? Is the beef treated with any chemical washes?

First I reached out to the director of food services.  I got a response assuring me our children’s safety is their priority and that they trust USDA food quality standards but my questions went unanswered.  After waiting a reasonable time for a response I contacted our superintendent.  I received the response I had hoped.  The answer was no to both questions.  Relieved I put the issue out of my mind.

And then a couple weeks later this email arrived from Michael Bergeron, Business Administrator for Amesbury Public Schools:

Good Afternoon,

As we communicated to you previously, the vendors from which Chartwells purchases meats for our lunch program do not contain LFTB or ammonium hydroxide. However, Chartwells has continued their research and have been told by the USDA that the Commodity Ground Beef products that Chartwells purchases may or may NOT contain LFTB and/or ammonium Hydroxide. Commodities are purchased in bulk as part of USDA offerings to school districts.

After reviewing all available data from the USDA and our vendors we have decided to resume using Commodity Ground Beef products that are offered to Amesbury Public Schools each month. This decision was not one made in haste as the district suspended the use of all USDA Ground Beef products in the District as of Tuesday, March 24th while we were in the process of fact gathering and researching the issues of L.F.T.B.’s and Ammonium Hydroxide.

We have concluded (based largely on USDA information) that the product is in no way harmful and the USDA has not recalled these products at this time. The Amesbury School Committee was also made aware of these findings on April 3rd 2012 through a presentation from Chartwells, the Food Service Management Company.

Beginning on Monday, April 23rd we will once again begin using Ground Beef both from our vendors who have indicated they do not use LFTB or Ammonium Hydroxide in the meat, and the USDA Commodity Ground Beef we receive monthly as part of the National School Lunch Program. It has been made clear to us that this Commodity Beef may or “may NOT” contain L.F.T.B.’s and/or Ammonium Hydroxide. The USDA identifies the LFTB as beef, not filler. Therefore, it does not require separate identification. The vendors the district uses to purchase ground beef did not use LFTB, which was communicated to parents. However, the USDA cannot confirm or deny that the commodities purchasing of ground beef contains LFTB in their offerings.

We have been told that the ammonium hydroxide is not used as an ingredient. It is a Food Safety intervention which is commonly found in many other products throughout the commercial foodservice industry. (I.E. Cheeses, Bacon, Baked Goods, Condiments)

Should you decide that you do not want your child/children to purchase these products, please consult the monthly menus available on the Amesbury Public School website to see which days these products are being offered…

One of my children is school aged and there is a social aspect to purchasing lunch with friends.  Our compromise is to allow her to purchase lunch twice a week.  I do my best to educate her and then allow her to make her own informed decisions.  She knows what I would choose and my hope is that she carries that with her into the cafeteria and in life.

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