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Allergic to the World: Pink slime: What we don't know will hurt us

I’m all for healthy eating.

So when experts say it’s better to eat food with simple ingredients and fewer additives, I decide to cook my own food from scratch, as much as possible, instead of dining out, so that I could be in charge of what’s put into my body.

But am I, though?

I have been trying to avoid purchasing ground beef from the supermarket ever since NBC news reported that “70 percent of ground beef at supermarkets contains ‘pink slime’”.

For those of you who don’t know what “pink slime” is, it is beef trimmings which once were used in dog food and cooking oil. But now, sprayed with ammonia to make them safe to eat, the trimmings are added to most ground beef as cheaper filler.

The reason why you are not familiar with this term is probably because it is called “lean finely textured beef” on the label of your ground beef.

That’s pretty damn clever.

And it isn’t over. New scientific studies have found that “poultry on factory farms are routinely fed caffeine, active ingredients of Tylenol and Benadryl, banned antibiotics and even arsenic.” Truth be told, I don’t even know what “Tylenol”, “Benadryl”, or “arsenic” mean, but they don’t sound delicious and surely don’t sound like something I would add to my chicken dish.

So for those of you who are clueless just like me when it comes to chemical terminology, Benadryl is an antihistamine and Tylenol is a painkiller. Now that I know what’s in my food, I could actually really use some Benadryl and Tylenol.

So thank you, food companies, for being so considerate and giving out treatment for free. Our anxiety, caused by the acknowledgement that our food is filled with anti-anxiety chemicals, can never be better treated than the anti-anxiety chemicals that come along with the food.

Now, wait a minute…

As for arsenic, it is a poisonous chemical, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been linked to cancer and might cause other side effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, partial paralysis, and blindness.

According to a New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, it is fed to poultry to reduce infections and makes flesh pink to appear more appetizing.

Although scientists have not proven that the amount of arsenic fed to chicken will harm either the chicken or human beings consuming such chicken, I guess I still am not too comfortable with this whole chemical thing.

When it comes to chemicals that might lead to cancer, I would not mind reducing them to zero. In fact, why would I even take any risk for the interest of big fast food companies?

The real problem, I think, is not that food companies do not listen to such health concerns, because they do, out of consideration for whatever reason (and by whatever reason I mean financial interest), but it is the invisibility of such issues.

Granted, they are widely covered and talked about right now and some big companies have adopted an attitude of making a change ( McDonald’s announced to end “pink slime” in burgers), these issues — these chemicals — will come back within no time when the coverage dies down. And we all know that in such an information-explosion world, that happens in just a blink of an eye.

Also, let’s face it, when you are mad hungry and facing a juicy beef burger or some golden chicken tenders, you probably don’t see pink slime or arsenic; even if they do come across your mind, those abstract words still are very unlikely to win a battle against the hot tempting burger in your hand that is yelling at you: “Eat me! Eat me!”

The solution here, I think, would be reducing the invisibility, both by media fulfilling their watchdog function, covering more relevant issues, and by audiences being responsible and constantly seeking transparency.

Invisibility is harmful; because an issue is invisible, you don’t see it as such.

And that is the real harm.

Bixi Tian is a graduate student studying journalism. Email her at


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