Last year, the group Real Food for Kids, based in Fairfax, Virginia, scored a victory when it convinced local schools to replace additive-infused hamburgers with 100 percent all-beef patties.
But after numerous student complaints that the all-beef patties didn't "look or taste right," Fairfax County Public Schools quietly switched back to the Don Lee Farms patties, which contain 26 ingredients and can be stored, frozen, for upwards of 12 months.
Students complained that the all-beef patties were "pink in the middle," which a school board member, Ryan McElveen, said is "likely [because] the all-beef patties did not have a caramel coloring additive."
For its part, Don Lee Farms claims that its patties no longer include "pink slime," which is technically called "lean finely textured beef," a combination of beef scraps and connective tissue doused with ammonia to kill pathogens.
Without the "pink slime," a nutritionist contacted by NPR said that the majority of the 26 ingredients pose no threat to children. Most constitute "a Flintstone's vitamin in the patty," which is designed as a supplement for students who don't eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables at home.
While this is a setback for Real Food for Kids, the group insists that's it not a failure. Working with the district's food and nutritional service director, Penny McConnell, they have implemented healthy choices programs that include menus with falafel and Waldorf salads.
Still, school board member McElveen thinks the switch back to the additive-infused patties "seems a bit like a step backwards."
Watch the NPR video with the nutritionist who explains the purpose of Don Lee Farm's 26 ingredients below.
["Boy On Temptation With Burger" on Shutterstock.com]