WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Safeway Inc, the No. 2 supermarket operator, will stop buying the ammonia-treated beef filler critics call "pink slime" because of widespread customer concern, the company said on Wednesday.
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 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)