LOS ANGELES -- Safeway Inc. is dropping the beef product derisively called "pink slime" from its fresh-meat cases, the nation's second-largest supermarket chain announced Wednesday.
The company linked its decision to the recent negative publicity about the product. The action affects only fresh ground beef sold in Safeway stores, not foods prepared by other companies.
Safeway stores operate under a variety of names -- including Vons in California and Nevada, Randalls and Tom Thumb in Texas, Genuardi's in Philadelphia, and Carrs in Alaska.
The company announced its decision to stop selling the product, known in the industry as "lean finely textured beef," in an email to reporters; the decision was first reported by ABC News.
"Safeway is committed to providing our customers with the highest-quality products," the company said in a statement. "While the USDA and food industry experts agree that lean finely textured beef is safe and wholesome, recent news stories have caused considerable consumer concern about this product. Safeway will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef."
The product is made from lower-quality meat scraps treated with an agent, such as ammonia, to prevent the growth of microbes. The meat industry has repeatedly defended the product, saying it's safe and that the anti-microbial agent is not an additive and therefore doesn't need to be noted on food labels.
Recent media reports, however, raised questions about the use of the product and whether ammonia is an additive.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week that it will disclose which of its suppliers use the product so that school officials can make their own decisions about usage.
Safeway has 1,702 stores, according to the company's website, second only to Kroger.
Publix, HEB, Whole Foods and Costco have said they will sell only ground beef that is additive-free.