WASHINGTON Safeway Inc, the No. 2 supermarket operator, will stop buying ground beef with the ammonia-treated beef filler critics call "pink slime" because of widespread customer concern, the company said on Wednesday.
In a related move, the No. 3 supermarket chain, Supervalu Inc, announced it would stop buying fresh ground beef containing the filler for its grocery stores.
The halt is a fresh blow to use of the ground beef filler, also known as lean finely textured beef, which has drawn criticism from food activists.
Although the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and industry experts said the filler is safe, "recent news stories have caused considerable consumer concern about this product," Safeway said in a statement.
"Safeway will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef," the company said.
"Effective today, Supervalu has made the decision to no longer purchase fresh ground beef containing finely textured beef for any of our traditional retail stores," Supervalu said in a statement on Wednesday.
The filler triggered a public outcry this month when the Internet news source The Daily reported that 7 million pounds of the product would appear in school lunches this spring.
After a furor over the report, the USDA said last week it was allowing school districts to opt out of using the beef filler starting next school year.
Fast-food chain McDonald's Corp stopped putting the USDA-approved ammonia-treated meat into its hamburgers in August after activists, including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, drew attention to the additive.
(Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Greg McCune and Xavier Briand)