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'Pink Slime' Outrage Goes Viral in Stunning Display of Social Media's Power

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center page.

For the better part of two decades, before it was dubbed "pink slime," this beef byproduct was nothing more than a mild-mannered staple in fast food burgers, tacos in school lunches and ground beef stocked in supermarket freezers.

Federal regulators never sounded safety concerns about it. No one directly linked it to foodborne illnesses or outbreaks. In fact, many food safety activists praised it as a technological marvel in the dangerous world of raw meat. 

That's why federal officials and the family-owned company that makes this product were slack-jawed when a public backlash erupted last month against what the industry calls "lean finely textured beef."

None of the usual suspects caused the uproar, even though a few had tried. Instead, the unlikely source was a Texas mom eager to improve school food. Early in March, from her kitchen in a leafy Houston neighborhood, Bettina Elias Siegel sounded off on her blog, The Lunch Tray. She urged readers to "put a stop to pink slime" in school lunches and hastily launched an online petition before taking off for the day's errands.

Eight days later, the signatures topped 200,000.

"I think you all know that I didn't have the slightest clue what I was about to unleash," Siegel wrote on her blog.

People, it seems, who for years gobbled down "lean finely textured beef" sat upright when they saw "pink slime."

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