“Pink slime” pushes processor into bankruptcy

Ground beef processor AFA Foods filed for bankruptcy protection April 2, citing the impact of the uproar over a meat filler dubbed “pink slime” by critics.

Meat processors have faced a backlash over the use of an ammonia-treated beef filler they call “finely textured beef.” Food activists have campaigned to have it banned, but supporters say the product is safe to eat.

AFA is one of the largest ground beef processors in the United States and produces more than 500 million pounds of ground beef products annually, the company said in documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

In filing for bankruptcy, it cited “recent changes in the market” for its products and media coverage related to the filler, and said it was seeking a sale of some or all of its assets. AFA owner Yucaipa Companies, the investment firm founded by Ron Burkle, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The backlash over “pink slime” has prompted companies such as Beef Products Inc. (BPI) to halt production at some of its plants and has led some big U.S. supermarket operators, including Safeway Inc. and Supervalu Inc., to say they will stop buying the ammonia-treated beef.

The impact of the controversy is far reaching, said Gary Acuff, director of the Center for Food Safety at Texas A&M University in College Station.

“The public view of this product is pretty damaged at this point,” Acuff said. “I’m not sure they’ll recover from something like this.”

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