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One year for Mother’s Day my oldest son gave me a hand-made card with a detailed mathematical breakdown of how many school lunches I put together over the years. It made me smile. And gasp. With four kids, the total came to more than 8,600 sack lunches with hundreds of apples, carrot sticks, sandwiches, yogurt, homemade granola bars and so on.

After watching the beginning of season #2 of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I’m looking back with fondness on making all those thousands of sack lunches. Maybe not so much with fondness, but definitely with relief.

Last year Jamie’s reality series took place in Huntington, WV. This year he’s taking on the LA public school system and if the looks on the faces of the school bureaucrats he tried to meet with are any indication of what’s to come, Jamie better get some linebacker bodyguards to hang out with.

If you watched last week you know that Jamie blasted two major components of the LA public school lunch program – flavored milk and pink slime.

One cup of strawberry flavored milk contains 6 teaspoons of sugar. Not to mention dyes, additives, artificial flavors and gums. In a jaw-dropping demonstration, Jamie loaded a school bus with 57 tons of sugar (it was actually sand). That’s how much sugar kids in the LA school district consume each week in flavored milk alone.

Does anyone wonder why type 2 diabetes is being reported among children at such alarming rates? And obesity? For the record, I don’t think an occasional sweet treat is evil, but I do know that refined sugar enters the bloodstream quickly and can cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. That doesn’t set the stage for effective learning or healthy cognitive development. There’s also evidence that artificial flavors and dyes can cause behavior problems, allergic reactions and food sensitivities.

On to part two of Jamie’s attack on the LA school sytem – pink slime. Artificially flavored, sugar-bomb milk is bad enough, but this stuff is over-the-top disgusting on so many levels. In another gag-inducing demo (just in case we might want the recipe) Jamie shows us how pink slime is made. Take the discarded bits, pieces and trimmed fat from the processing of meat (the parts normally used in pet food) and drench them in ammonia to get rid of the nasty pathogens. Once the ammonia has done its job (it’s called the kill-step), the pink slime is made into burgers for school lunches. Ammonia gets rid of the contamination in the meat (if you can call it meat). And get this, ammonia doesn’t have to be listed as an ingredient in burgers made from pink slime. According to the USDA, ammonia is not an ingredient, it’s part of the processing.


Sketchy logic if you ask me.

By the way, pink slime is really what this stuff is called. There are even industrial processors known for using the dregs of the meat packing industry to make pink slime for fast food burgers.

So, in addition to all the sugar and additives, kids also get a dose of ammonia and discarded meat sludge for lunch. Healthy building blocks for growing bodies? Not even close.

Jamie definitely his work cut out for him.

Okay, I’m stepping off my soap box to go throw up.

Peace, love and sack lunches.

For a detailed post I did several years ago on sugar, check here.
For kid-friendly lunch ideas, check with Kelly at the Spunky Coconut, Ali at The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, or Alexa at Lexie’s Kitchen.

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20 Responses to “a slime burger with a side of sugar”

  1. Alta says:

    The pink slime process was news to me a bit over a year ago – and since then, we’ve been very careful to know where our pre-ground meat comes from. (or I grind it myself) The lack of ownership – the fact that the people that raise and slaughter the animals, if they do so in an unsafe manner, cannot be traced back to the mixed-meat from hundreds of cattle, ammonia-treated and mass-produced stuff that is shipped out and sold to all of us – is such a problem. Ammonia aside, the threat of E. Coli from this process is so much higher – and they have no real incentive to change their practices, because of the lack of traceability. And yeah, when you can put ammonia in the food and still call it food, well, gross.

    • Melissa says:


      Thanks for adding such good stuff to the conversation. I do appreciate it and we’re on the same page with this. Gross, indeed!

  2. It was really an eye-opening show on so many levels. Thanks for highlighting it here, Melissa. I don’t know the proper word to show my disgust at the fact that labeling does not have to show the use of ammonia. It brings to mind the latest news on neotame, which also does not have to be shown on labels per the FDA and can even be included in organic foods. Here are two links on that topic: and Six tsps of sugar in a cup of strawberry milk is unbelievable, too. In contrast, think of all the pure love–in every sense of the word (food, especially good food is love)–that went into those lunches you made for your family. In comparison to what the kids receive today, those lunches were priceless. Have you heard that there is one school in the Chicago school system that recently outlawed bringing lunches from home unless one has food allergies/sensitivities? The logic is that this school system offers better quality food than was being sent in by parents. That’s here: Boy, do we have some big issues to deal with. Many, many kudos to Jamie Oliver for all he’s doing and for you, Melissa, for making sure your readers get the word! You’ve been doing this type of nutritional education and awareness for years here at Gluten Free for Good and we’re grateful!


  3. Hi Melissa,

    I didn’t see the Jamie Oliver show, but wow. That’s all I can say. Amen for sack lunches. (I grew up on MANY sack lunches made by my mom, and can appreciate what you did for your kids!) On that note, did you see the news story – I think it was last week – about a school district in Chicago that is banning sack lunches from home, and requiring kids to eat the school lunch (unless they have a medical exemption), on the premise that the school lunch is healthier than what kids are bringing from home? Crazy times…

    Cheers, Pete

  4. Great post, Melissa. Think I’ll join you in the vomitorium – but then let’s wash up and have a nice glass of lemon-water in the sun together. Ahhh. Jamie Oliver rocks.

  5. Melissa,
    I was glued (not with meat glue, though, ewww.) to the TV on Tuesday night. I can only hope that the people who really need to see it are watching, or that at least it is somehow brought to their attention.
    I was also floored by the use of plastics in the microwave. Goodness only knows what kinds of nasties are leaching into the foods from that direction also.
    Personally, I do not have children who are being directly affected by this incredible farce of “nutrition”, but it is a national emergency of epic proportions. The dead and broken bodies that are being created here are just as numerous as from any other natural or man made disaster.

  6. Lexie says:

    TOTALLY grossed me out and the visual will keep me FAR from a Mc D’s burger forever more. Peter, you can watch Jamie on Hulu … I really loved the respect he showed to the cow that was brought on the show. RESPECT for the food, respect for the body, respect, period!

    Nice write-up.


  7. Totally disgusting! I am so glad that this is being shown on mainstream tv. This is the stuff that health nuts like us know about, yet no one believes us until it is actually being shown on “normal” tv. I just hope that all of those parents in that school district are watching and are as riveted as we are.
    Great post, Melissa. As usual, your humor makes something gross into something pretty funny (and still gross). LOL

  8. There are some perks to avoiding restaurants and fast food that being gluten-free requires. Knowing that we haven’t been exposed to pink slime in the last 5 years was a relief. Yuck!

  9. Janet says:

    The sad thing is that pink slime isn’t just used in fast food burgers and school lunches. It can be in the hamburger meat you buy at the grocery store. Back in 2007 a woman was left paralyzed after eating a hamburger her mother cooked that had been contaminated with e.coli. The patties were labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties” but were made in part from this pink slime. According to a 2009 article that was published in the New York Times, through unwritten agreements, many big slaughterhouses will sell only to grinders who agree not to test their shipments for E. coli. See:

  10. Maggie says:

    You are my hero! Thanks for this mini-review of his first show. I don’t get cable so can’t watch it, I can probably stream it? Anyway, this is disgusting. My son is heading into the school system in September. It shall open up a whole new world for us. Give me strength, okay?

  11. Maggie says:

    PS Do you think this pink slime is in McDonald’s hamburgers? If so it will really help me in my recurring McDonald’s debates. AMMONIA! COME ON!

  12. lo says:

    I did catch this episode of Jamie’s show — and I’m glad he’s getting the word out there, as disgusting as it is. I really don’t understand how so many people can keep buying into the industrial food system when there are so many reasons not to. Hopefully this is one step toward educating a new generation of eaters.

    Even more interesting, did you see this article on a school in the Chicago area that’s banning lunches brought from home??

  13. […] ~ So many who have gone gluten free have found the unexpected blessing of actually learning what’s in their food and, in the end, shifting their focus to real food, whole foods, if you will. That’s the gfe approach and it’s also the focus of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. The second season just started this past Tuesday. Two of the eye-opening demonstrations that Jamie shared were on the pink “stuff” (and that’s my euphemism) that’s allowed in ground beef and sugar in milk. Diane did a nice summary of the show here on her Changing My Life Journal and Melissa addressed the nutritional concerns of the “food” that Jamie highlighted in his opening show. I think you might agree with the sentiments she shared at the end of her post.  […]

  14. […]  When you’re done and if you’ve already seen it check out my friend the nutritionist post on two topics he talked about to see just how real they […]

  15. I’ve actually never had school lunch that was described on those levels before. Growing up in Singapore, the government was pretty tough on what the school canteen dished up and as far as I can remember, any form of deep fried food slowly disappeared off the menus throughout my time at school.

  16. I honestly don’t know why people think it’s okay to eat all these packaged foods. It really confuses me. Even IF my daughter didn’t have all these allergies, there’s no way I would feed her that “crap.” It isn’t food in my opinion.

  17. betty says:

    pinkslime? GROSS!
    i love jamie oliver though he’s awesome

    great blog, awesome read
    keep it up xo

  18. Elizabeth says:

    At the grocery store around the corner from my apartment, the clerk asked me if I wanted to donate a candy bar to the local elementary school! As if they need candy bars. I told her I would give them an avocado, and she looked at me like I was crazy.

  19. amber says:

    … first time hearing about this….. i ate fast food … it had this in it? (runs to bathroom n barfs) i never wana leave the safty of my bed agian! (hides under covers) the worlds ending!

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