What are gloves protecting? The food or the handler?

This one time, in graduate school, a harvester told me that he loved wearing gloves when he picked tomatoes because it kept his hands from getting dirty.

Another time, in graduate school, a greenhouse manager told me he had convinced his boss that food safety was really important and the company invested in installing full restrooms in the greenhouse — and fully stocked a closet with latex gloves.

The manager trained all the employees on why clean hands and gloves were important.

A week after the training session he saw an employee urinating on the outside wall of the restroom.

With his gloves on.

Or maybe gloves are there to protect the food handlers from the food (thanks to Carl Custer for the cartoon).


‘It’s pink, it’s meat,’ lean finely textured beef – LFTB yo – vs pink slime in public opinion

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Carl’s having fun in his retirement.

Not content with an audience of food safety nerds, Carl went big, on ABC News last night.

Bigger stage, bigger scrutiny; more exposure, more criticism (unless you’re Tom Hanks).

As seen in the ABC news clip, Gerald Zirnstein grinds his own hamburger these days. Why? Because this former United States Department of Agriculture scientist and, now, whistleblower, knows that 70 percent of the ground beef we buy at the supermarket contains something he calls “pink slime.”

“Pink slime” is beef trimmings. Once only used in dog food and cooking oil, the trimmings are now sprayed with ammonia so they are safe to eat and added to most ground beef as a cheaper filler.

It was Zirnstein who, in an USDA memo, first coined the term “pink slime” and is now coming forward to say he won’t buy it (shurley shome mistake; wasn’t it the Jamie Oliver ministry? No).

“It’s economic fraud,” he told ABC News. “It’s not fresh ground beef. … It’s a cheap substitute being added in.”

Zirnstein and his fellow USDA scientist, Carl Custer, both warned against using what the industry calls “lean finely textured beef,” widely known now as “pink slime,” but their government bosses overruled them.

According to Custer, the product is not really beef, but “a salvage product … fat that had been heated at a low temperature and the excess fat spun out.”

The “pink slime” does not have to appear on the label because, over objections of its own scientists, USDA officials with links to the beef industry labeled it meat.

“The under secretary said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Custer told ABC News.

ABC News has learned the woman who made the decision to OK the mix is a former undersecretary of agriculture, Joann Smith. It was a call that led to hundred of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc., the makers of pink slime.

Today, the meat types fought back.

Meatingplace.com disputed Custer’s claims that the product isn’t muscle but connective tissue. “But connective tissue isn’t red. Any redness (or pink, in this case) is associated with myoglobin — meaning it’s of muscle origin.”

It’s pink so it’s meat.

“We actually have equipment in place specifically designed to remove any sinew, cartilage, or connective tissue that may come in with raw materials, just like the companies that take trim and produce ground beef,” Rich Jochum, BPI’s corporate administrator told Meatingplace. “Our finished product is typically 94 percent lean.”

Ammonium hydroxide isn’t the only intervention. Cargill uses citric acid, just one of several alternatives to treat what it calls finely textured beef (FTB) to reduce the pathogen load.

The product is included in approximately 70 percent of all ground beef products, Cargill spokesman Mike Martin told Meatingplace.

Food-grade ammonium hydroxide is also commonly used as a direct food additive in baked goods, cheeses and chocolates.

Carl doesn’t have much to worry about if the best proponents can come up with is the tired but continually tested, change-the-language-change-the-mind strategy: lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) just isn’t as catchy as pink slime.

Industry types, if you’re proud of your product for its bacterial-reducing capabilities, promote it, reclaim and own the term pink slime; market it.

Instead it’ll be like the genetic engineering types who spent a fortune in the 1990s learning that the term genetic engineering scares people, so it’s better to call it biotechnology. The spokethingies will go to risk communication seminars, learn to express empathy, but still wear $1,000 Italian leather loafers (the douchebags don’t wear socks) and have sweaters tied around their neck for that common-man look (on sale now at J.C. Penny), all while trying to convince the masses of the virtues of lean finely textured ground beef.

That cull dairy cow has gone through the pink slime barn door.

Real-time turkey: Carl Custer version

Food safety sage Carl Custer (left, exactly as shown) shares his version of turkey time today from Bethesda, Maryland:

My nephew comes over with three gallons of peanut oil and a brined turkey to use my tamale steamer/turkey fryer. Instructions say 350°F oil for 52 minutes. At 35 minutes I pull it out and check deep thigh temperature with a Comark PDT 300.

It’s 175°F. ¡Ay carumba! Into the kitchen and double check deep breast temperature: 145! Male puppy! Back to the fryer for another 10 minutes.

Deep breast temperature in several places is now >170°F.

Earlier, a brine injected turkey goes into the grill/smoker at 7:00 a.m. Yawn.

It’s cold and drizzly so difficult to keep air temperature >200°F even with tarp and wind shields. Pull turkey at noon; it’s 150°F. Put into a 350°F oven with an 8 cm "L-shaped" probe. I wrap the probe with a wet paper towel so it doesn’t act as a "potato nail" and give a false high reading. An hour later it’s 160°F and coasting up to 168°F.

Mmmm mmmm good and safe.

Time may be on your side but temperature is better.

Carl also notes the raw birds were handled with latex gloves, and sinks were washed with detergent & paper towels, followed by 70% ethanol.

Texas Aggie food microbiologist, Carl Custer, sojourning in Merryland for past 38 years, smokes turkey (and other animal parts) following scientific principles.