WASHINGTON — A leading US ground-beef processor, AFA Foods, filed for bankruptcy protection Monday, blaming media coverage of one of its products dubbed "pink slime" by critics.
AFA Foods said it was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection "given recent changes in the market for its ground beef products and the impact of media coverage related to Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT)."
Based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, the company claims to be the nation's largest ground beef processor, producing more than 700 million pounds (317 million kilograms) annually, mostly for food service companies.
AFA Foods said in a statement that it had sought bankruptcy protection because "the best way to preserve value for its stakeholders is through an orderly sale of some or all of its assets."
BLBT is made from beef trimmings otherwise used in pet food and cooking oil that is treated with a puff of ammonia to deter e. coli bacteria. The lean, finely textured beef is typically added to ground meat, like hamburger, as a low-cost filler.
In mid-March, public furor about the so-called "pink slime" drove the US Department of Agriculture to announce it would leave it to schools to decide whether to use the controversial ground-beef filler in the meals they serve to students.
The USDA's National School Lunch Program feeds more than 31 million school children, many of them from low-income families.
USDA recently bought seven million pounds (3.6 million kilograms) of the rosy-colored product for school meals -- prompting more than 250,000 consumers to sign an online petition demanding a halt to its use in school food.
Several fast-food chains, including McDonald's, have declared they would cease beefing up their burgers with lean finely textured beef.
AFA Foods has seven production facilities and a workforce of more than 1,000 employees.