Myth: Ordinary Household Ammonia is Used to Make Some Hamburgers
This inaccurate notion has been spread by some movies and TV personalities. Ammonia is naturally occurring, found in the human body, beef, other proteins, and virtually all foods. It plays an important role in the body’s nitrogen cycle and in helping the body synthesize the protein. It also maintains the pH level that the body needs.
One form of ammonia - ammonium hydroxide - is used in processing foods like baked goods, cheeses, chocolates and some beef products. This is not the same type of ammonia in household cleaners. It is classified as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is approved in most other countries, including the European Union. When used for meat processing, ammonium hydroxide creates an environment that is unfriendly to pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli O157:H7 and provides a significant food safety benefit.
Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings, Finely Textured is made through a process that facilitates separation of lean and fat portions of the beef. One company uses a tiny puff of ammonium hydroxide gas as part of the process in order to destroy pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli O157:H7. The lean meat is then frozen rapidly. This lean beef can be added to other ground beef during the grinding process and is an excellent way to harvest additional lean meat and foster sustainable processes.
Remember these facts:
- Ammonia and ammonium hydroxide exist naturally in our bodies and in meat.
- Ammonium hydroxide is approved in most countries for food processing by agencies like the FDA.
- When it is used in beef processing in the U.S., it is done under government inspection, through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- It is used to make beef safer.
- “Engineering a Safer Burger" The Washington Post, June 18, 2008.
- “Questions and Answers about Ammonium Hydroxide Use in Food Production” International Food Information Council Foundation, December 30, 2009.