Since neither the FDA nor the food industry is motivated to provide consumers with clear definitions of the difference between hamburger and ground beef or provide adequate information on the contents permitted in the preparation of ground meat and hamburgers, we feel compelled to offer the following information.

According to the FDA, the definition of ground beef is “fresh or frozen beef with or without seasoning that may not contain added fat, up to a maximum of 30% total fat. No water, phosphates, binder, or extenders (e.g. soy) may be added.”

When beef cheek meat (trimmed meat from the face of cattle) is used in the preparation of chopped or ground beef, the amount of such face meat “shall be limited to 25 percent”.  If the ground beef contains face meat in excess of the meat from the remainder of the cattle, the total amount is required on the label.

So, 25% of the ground meat in the stores and that used in fast food burgers may contain 25% of a cow’s face.  FDA rules say that if water is used in the hamburger, “the result should possess ‘the characteristics’ one thinks of when one thinks of a meat pattie.”  Exactly what are those characteristics and who determines them?

Since the FDA is deficient in testing and inspection, then it is safe to assume that the industry cheats and uses more of the cheaper face meat and water to dilute their product and expand profit margins.  It is just too tempting to cut corners for profit.

The FDA also permits “binders or extenders … in amounts such that the product characteristics are essentially that of a meat pattie.”  What are these binders and just how much is found in ground beef and hamburger?  If you can put 70% chemical and other ingredients with 30% meat and it still looks like a “meat pattie”, is that product approved by the FDA?  And how would the FDA know what the true percentages are if they are not vigilant in testing and inspection?

So what’s the difference between hamburger and ground beef?  Ground beef’s fat is predetermined by the particular cut of beef used.  While hamburger can contain just about any cut of beef, including tougher cuts, with scraps scooped up from the slaughterhouse floor added to bring the fat content up to the desired no-more-than-thirty-percent level.

The definition for hamburger is nearly the same as for ground beef, with the exception that added fat may be used, provided it does not exceed more than 30% of its content.

However, the standards for the contents of beef products for fast foods restaurants is far more liberal than these definitions.  For example, the FDA’s standard for meat filling is 40%.  Despite this fact, allegedly Taco Bell’s meat mixture contains less than 35% meat or 5% below the FDA’s standard.

Most fast food ground beef and hamburger contain commercial ammonia, which is a common ingredient in fertilizers and household cleaning products.  Beef Products, Inc., has been distributing it for eight years.  Their product is commonly found in fast food hamburgers, in school lunches and in supermarket ground beef along with the very E. coli and salmonella contamination that their ammonia seeks to destroy.

Blood ammonia comes primarily from the bacterial breakdown of unabsorbed dietary protein in the intestine. This passes into the bloodstream and travels to the liver which normally converts ammonia into urea. It is then eliminated in urine.

Ammonia levels in the blood rise when the liver is not able to convert ammonia to urea. This elevation can be from any problems with the liver, including inflammation, cirrhosis or severe hepatitis, as well as, gastrointestinal problems. Both the liver and the brain are extremely sensitive to the toxic effects of excessive ammonia.

A growing number of reports address adult-onset genetic disorders of the urea/ammonia cycle in previously healthy individuals.  Higher levels also result in “brain fog”.  An elevated blood ammonia level must never be ignored because it can be fatal.

The commercial ammonia used by Beef Products, Inc. should not be confused with the natural ammonia your body produces from natural sources.  There are no tests differentiating the effects of natural ammonia produced by the body from natural foods and the commercial ammonia additive used by Beef Products, Inc.

There is a disagreement between doctors and the food industry over the range of permissible ammonia in the human body.  The ranges differ from 35 to 65 micrograms to higher wider industry estimates of 15 to 110 micrograms.   In the metric system, a microgram (µg or mcg) is a unit of mass equal to one millionth (1/1,000,000) of a gram.  Determining the body’s level requires an ammonia test and BUN (blood urea nitrogen) test by your doctor.  Does anyone besides the food industry know how much ammonia-treated fatty-waste-filled-beef increases the body’s ammonia level?

Yummy.  Does that mean that McDonald’s and other fast food chains are now selling double ammonia face-cheeseburgers?  Despite industry claims, does anyone really know how much beef and ammonia is in the hamburger that Americans buy for their children every day?  In the face of massive recalls of beef (4.95 million pounds from November 2009 through February 2010), do any consumers really know how much E. coli slips past inspection?

So why did the USDA approve treating hamburger meat with ammonia?   The executives at Beef Products Inc. felt frustrated that they couldn’t use the fatty waste in the beef because it is so vulnerable to bacterial contamination and could not pass inspection.  But as described in Food, Inc., a company executive came up with a money-making idea.  If the fatty waste could be treated with large amounts of ammonia, likely “the contaminants would die and then the waste could be ground into a paste, added to hamburg, and sold for a far higher price.”

Tests showed that their commercial ammonia kills off E. coli and salmonella.  The FDA and USDA not only approved the ammonia-treated fatty waste, the agencies granted an exemption to Beef Products, Inc. so that the ammonia-based fatty waste was exempt from regular inspections.  Ammonia-treated ground beef is found in up in 70% of all hamburger sold in the U.S., including hamburger products sold at Burger King, McDonalds, school lunch programs and most supermarket chains.

No independent tests were run to assess the risks before the product got the USDA stamp of approval.  Instead, the USDA relied on assurances from Beef Products, Inc., that they had tested the fatty-waste-filled-beef and found it to be perfectly safe.  A classic example of the farmer asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

A former USDA microbiologist, Carl S. Custer, called the processed ammonia-fatty-beef-waste “pink slime” and opined, “I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling.” However, the industry claims that ammonia is present in all foods and essential to maintain life.

No one knows the amount of commercial ammonia used by Beef Products, Inc.  But after consumer complaints that hamburgers smelled like ammonia, the industry reduced the amount to conceal the odor.  By doing so, the ammonia stopped killing all of the dangerous bacteria and other pathogens.

Although the USDA didn’t require it, schools kept testing the hamburger and found that in the years 2005 to 2009, ammonia-treated-fatty-waste hamburger tested positive for salmonella 36 times per 1,000 tests, compared to only nine positive tests per 1,000 for other suppliers.  This included two contaminated batches of 27,000 pounds in August 2009.  E. coli contamination was also found in the meat.  In spite of these test failures, Beef Products Inc.’s profits rose to $440 million annually.

Despite the dangers, the School Lunch Program says it “… will continue to use BPI beef despite some misgivings … because its price is substantially lower than ordinary meat trimmings, saving about $1 million a year.”  McDonald’s, Burger King, and Cargill all said they’ll continue to use the meat.

“U.S. beef demand for beef has remained relatively constant even amid massive recalls, disease outbreaks and scares over mad cow disease. We tend to trust, more than any country in the world, the (government) food inspections”, according to Abner Womack, a senior economist at the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri.

We wonder if Mr. Womack knew that the FDA did not even test this ammonia-fatty-waste-treated hamburger.  How can anyone have confidence in an agency that does not even test these products before they are unleashed on the public?

Do you know that your hamburger can legally contain maggots and rat poop?  FDA rules permit an average of 2 or more rodent hairs per 10 grams; an average of 300 or more insect fragments (referred to as insect filth) per 10 grams; an average of 10 or more fly eggs per 500 grams or 5 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots per 500 grams.

Sound like a witch’s brew?  The only thing missing is, “”Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing, ….” (Shakespeare’s Macbeth (IV, i, 14-15).  Granted it is not a large sum, but any amount of fly eggs, insect hairs, insect filth, maggots and rat poop in our food is too much.

The Food Defect Action Levels, last revised November 2005, is a publication of the USDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition detailing acceptable levels of food contamination from sources such as maggots, thrips, insect fragments, “foreign matter”, mold, rodent hairs and insect and mammalian feces.  The list also includes “foreign matter”, which includes ‘objectionable’ items like “sticks, stones, burlap bagging, cigarette butts, etc.”

A printed version of the publication may be obtained by written request to the FDA.  Sadly these levels were determined by industry insiders appointed to the USDA to protect the food industry.

Since the FDA and USDA are so remiss in inspecting and testing foods, is there really any way to know how much “maggots, thrips, insect fragments, “foreign matter”, mold, rodent hairs, and insect and mammalian feces” have been ground right up with the rest of the ingredients?  While the industry and the FDA claim the food is tested, the number of recalls, Salmonella and E. Coli outbreaks proves otherwise.

The publication details the acceptable amounts of contaminants on a per food basis, listing both the defect source (pre-harvest infection, processing infestation, processing contamination, etc.) and significance (aesthetic, potential health hazard, mouth/tooth injury, etc.).  For example, the limit of insect contaminants allowed in caned or frozen peaches is specified as, “In 12 one-pound cans or equivalent, one or more larvae and/or larval fragments whose aggregate length exceeds 5 mm.”

Another example is Tomato juice which may average “10 or more fly eggs per 100 grams [the equivalent of a small juice glass – 3.5 ounces] or five or more fly eggs and one or more maggots.” Tomato paste and other pizza sauces are allowed a denser infestation — 30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams [3.5 ounces] or 15 or more fly eggs and one or more maggots per 100 grams.

The FDA also permits the industry to spray hamburger and other meat products with carbon monoxide to keep the meat looking nice and pink to add an extra twenty days of shelf life.  This use of carbon monoxide leads to hamburger feeling slimy.  Does anyone know or has anyone tested what happens when you combine carbon monoxide with ammonia?  Another possibly dangerous chemical cocktail.
Hamburger is also diluted and effected by industry practices in handling animals in CAFOs (factory farms) where animals are fed with so much genetically modified soy and corn, which they cannot digest, their fat becomes more like vegetable oil, containing high levels of carcinogenic Omega-6, rather than the healthier form of Omega-3 recommended by doctors.

Then food manufacturers add more genetically modified corn, soy and chemical ingredients including MSG during processing to dilute the product even more.  There is no way of calculating how much soy residue remains in the meat from cattle, pigs and chickens after slaughter.  The gap between the FDA requirements and 100% “real food” leaves the industry a wide gap to fill their products with chemicals and synthetic fillers.

Since soy and corn are genetically modified by using the Bt toxin, then there is also the issue of undisclosed bacteria and toxin residues in meats.  This is one of the sources of the E. coli bacterium.  Of course, Big Food, particularly Monsanto, will tell you that genetically modified foods are “nature-identical”.  That’s akin to saying that Frankenstein and George Clooney are “nature-identical”.

These are among the many reasons why we conclude that eating these foods leads to weight gain, obesity, food addiction, illness and disease.

Join us tomorrow at 1pm eastern for Surviving The 21st Century on BTR – Simon Barrett

Mannie Barling and Ashley F. Brooks, R.N., are the authors of award winning books – Arthritis, Inflammation, Gout, Crohn’s, IBD and IBS – How to Eliminate Pain and Extend your Life (Books and Authors 2010 Best Books in the Health, Diet & Reference Categories) and Mannie’s Diet and Enzyme Formula – A Change of Lifestyle Diet Designed for Everyone (Blogger News Net 2010 Best Health And Nutrition Book Award winner) available at, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other booksellers around the world.

The authors’ latest book, It’s Not Your Fault – Weight Gain, Obesity and Food Addiction is now available at, Amazon and booksellers everywhere.

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