Beef Products, Inc., BPI Technology, Inc. and Freezing Machines, Inc. (collectively known as BPI) will announce plans Thursday morning during a press conference to pursue a lawsuit for defamation of its beef product, lean finely textured beef.
The press conference will be 10 a.m. Sept. 13 at BPI Headquarters, Sioux City, South Dakota.
Lean finely textured beef, or LFTB, the product reportedly dubbed "pink slime" by Gerald Zirnstein, a former USDA microbiologist, is simply a ground beef product.
Beef Products Inc., one of the only remaining manufacturers, says it begins as a mixture of beef trimmings that is roughly half fat and half lean. It is finely ground and then spun in a centrifuge to remove most of the fat. BPI says the final mixture is 95% lean.
On March 26 BPI announced it was temporarily closing three of its four plants.
Soon after, Reuters news service reported another producer of LFTB and ground beef, AFA Foods, filed for bankruptcy protection, citing the impact of the "pink slime" debacle.
Documents filed in the company's bankruptcy papers said AFA is one of the largest ground beef processors in the United States and produces more than 500 million pounds of ground beef products annually.
AFA is based in Pennsylvania and has plants in four other states. At the time of its bankruptcy filing it reported having about 850 full-time employees and in December 2011 it had annual revenue of $958 million.
The primary difference between LFTB, also known as "pink slime," and all other ground beef products is that LFTB is treated with ammonium hydroxide during processing to kill microbes before being sold.
Ammonium hydroxide is the same chemical compound found in household ammonia but it is a common food additive used to increase the food pH level and decrease microbial activity. Reportedly, it is used in baked goods, cheeses, gelatins, chocolate, caramels and puddings.
That compound was first approved in 1958 by the Food and Drug Administration under a classification system that more or less "grandfathered" a number of food additives based on the best science of the day as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
In 1974 ammonium hydroxide as a food additive was reviewed again by FDA's Select Committee on GRAS Substances and again classified as safe.
Nonetheless, this appeared to be a major sticking point with consumers.