Ammonia an Ingredient in More Than Pink Slime

Health officials gave ammonium hydroxide the OK in 1974

By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 5, 2012 6:43 AM CDT

(Newser) – If you were appalled by the revelation that the meat industry grinds up beef byproducts and gives them a nice ammonia bath, steel yourself: Experts say ammonia compounds are pretty commonly used in food. Ammonium hydroxide, which was given the OK by health officials in 1974, is added to milk in cheese production to stimulate cheese cultures; ammonium phosphate acts as a leavening agent, but evaporates during the course of baking. "It is quite similar to adding wine to a sauce and cooking away the alcohol," says a rep for Kraft, which uses small amounts of ammonia in some of its products, but isn't exactly tripping over itself to provide a list of those foods.

And according to the United States government, it doesn't have to: Ammonia compounds are considered safe in small amounts. And those used as "processing aids"—like ammonium hydroxide, the compound used to make pink slime—don't have to be declared on a label. But Reuters reports that you'll find that compound in everything from soda to soup. As for what is listed on labels, Reuters took a look and reports that you'll find ammonia compounds in everything from Wonder Bread to Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli to Chips Ahoy cookies. And the Kraft rep would like to point out that ammonia, which occurs in nature, is found naturally in milk. Click for more on pink slime.

Beef Products' ammonia-treated filler, a lower-cost ingredient made from bits of meat left over from other cuts.   (AP Photo/Beef Products Inc.)
A hamburger made from ground beef containing "pink slime," or what the meat industry calls "lean, finely textured beef," is ready for tasting Thursday, March 15, 2012.   (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
The beef product known as pink slime is displayed on a tray Thursday, March 29, 2012, at the Beef Products plant in South Sioux City, Neb.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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