Everybody Panic: Is ‘Tuna Scrape’ the New ‘Pink Slime’?

Note: not all pinkish food products with scary-sounding names are created equal.

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NIGEL O'NEIL / GETTY IMAGES

Spicy tuna rolls, the suspected source of a salmonella outbreak and a common usage for "tuna scrape."

A few weeks ago, McDonald’s made news with its decision to drop ‘pink slime’ from its hamburger meat after months of campaigning against the substance by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and others. The public outcry about eating a gross-sounding meat product that is banned for human consumption in some countries was fierce and fast: While the industry maintains that “lean finely textured beef,” or LFTB, as it is less ominously known, is safe and nutritious (no word on delicious), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently allowed school districts to opt out of using meat containing the filler for school lunches, after an online petition drew hundreds of thousands of signatures in support.

Now that we’ve got that out of our system, prepare to get hysterical over pink slime’s fishier cousin, tuna scrape.

(MORE: Backlash to the ‘Pink Slime’ Backlash)

The fish product, used primarily in commercially available spicy tuna rolls, was fingered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as the source of a recent salmonella outbreak that sickened more than a hundred people. Tuna scrape is defined as “tuna backmeat, which is specifically scraped off from the bones, and looks like a ground product,” according to the FDA. A report on National Public Radio said the type implicated in the salmonella scare, Nakaochi Scrape, is sold frozen to restaurants and supermarkets, which use it in spicy tuna rolls and other sushi recipes that call for finely minced tuna. California-based importer Moon Marine USA Corporation issued a recall of more than 50,000 pounds of the frozen yellowfin tuna product from India, an FDA spokesman told AFP, after it had been identified as a cause of the outbreak.

(MORE: ‘Pink Slime’ Maker Cuts Back Production. Is That a Good Thing?)

Tuna scrape and pink slime may seem similar: both are a pinkish slurry of commercial food product with a dangerous-sounding name. But according to Food Safety News, the similarities end there. Pink slime is made up of ground-up beef scraps, fat and connective tissue that is heated, sent through a centrifuge and doused with ammonia hydroxide. Tuna scrape is excess flesh removed from the bones of fish with a spoon-like device and… that’s it. No further processing occurs.

It is important to note though that tuna scrape is generally eaten raw, which elevates the risk of contracting a food-borne illness. As with any sushi, consumption of tuna scrape is strictly caveat emptor. As Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, told NPR, “[My] rule of thumb is that raw food of animal origin should be cooked before it’s eaten.”

MORE: ‘Pink Slime’ in School Lunches: Is It Really That Bad?

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