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The Associated Press March 27, 2012, 2:48PM ET

Fresh & Easy lets shoppers swap 'pink slime' meat

Fresh & Easy supermarkets will allow anyone to swap ground beef bought elsewhere for ground beef at its stores amid furor over a beef additive that has come to be known notoriously as "pink slime."

Many grocery chains, including the largest U.S. chain, Kroger, and discount store Target, said last week that they either would stop selling or never sold beef made with the additive. The industry calls it "lean, finely textured beef."

Fresh & Easy says it has never sold it.

The product is an ammonia-treated filler commonly added to some ground beef products. Federal regulators say the product, which has been used for years, meets food safety standards. But critics call the product an unappetizing example of industrialized food production.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided school districts may stop using it following a broad public backlash.

On Monday, Beef Products Inc., the company that makes the filler, suspended operations at all but one plant where the ingredient is made.

Fresh & Easy, a U.S. supermarket chain that operates in California, Nevada and Arizona and is owned by Britain's Tesco, is taking it a step further. Anyone who bought fresh or frozen ground beef from another store -- with or without the additive -- can swap it for Fresh & Easy ground beef on Wednesday, while supplies last. The swap can be made for up to 2 lbs of products. The company says its meat is ground at its own stores and contains only fresh ground beef.

The company is asking customers to tell others about swapping meet on social media sites using the keyword "(hash)SwapMeat."


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