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Beef Gains Unlikely Defenders

Beef Products Inc.'s lean finely textured beef is lean beef mechanically recovered from the trimmings of other beef cuts. Experts, both inside and outside the industry reassure consumers that it is a safe process and product.

Consumer groups are troubled by a beef controversy related to lean finely textured beef (LFTB) - but not in the way you'd expect.

At Consumer Federation of America (CFA), there's regret the "yuck factor" has drowned out the science behind LFTB.

"From the safety standpoint, we didn't think there was a big concern with this product," says Chris Waldrop, director of the CFA's food policy initiative. "The company that makes this has a number of interventions in place to reduce the risk of what is a risky product, and we think that's a good thing."

At STOP Foodborne Illness, a group created by parents after a deadly E. coli outbreak in 1993, there's applause for technology that kills dangerous germs in the food supply - and yes, that includes "the use of minute amounts of ammonium hydroxide on beef trimmings."

Even the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a watchdog group that regularly barks at foodmakers about nutrition and health issues, hasn't joined the public outcry over beef.

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