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Tuna Scrape: What Is It? Is It Dangerous?

First it was "pink slime," and now the popular phrase is "tuna scrape." Many are wondering, though, what tuna scrape actually is and whether it is dangerous to ingest. Here are the facts on tuna scrape and the risks it may pose.

The Food and Drug Administration defines tuna scrape as "tuna backmeat, which is specifically scraped off from the bones, and looks like a ground product." Essentially, it is ground tuna, similar to a hamburger. It is often used as filler for sushi rolls, which have become increasingly popular.

Michael Doyle, director for the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, spoke with NPR about the substance.

"My rule of thumb is that raw food of animal origin should be cooked before it's eaten," he said.

Tuna scrape is generally frozen while still raw, which often leads to bacteria settling in the meat and being ingested by humans.

"For chicken, turkey and beef, the ground product tends to be more contaminated than the whole cuts," Doyle told NPR.

Why all the talk about tuna scrape? Last week a salmonella outbreak that sickened 116 people was traced back to the product. The Centers for Disease Control issued a warning, and the Nakaochi Scrape was recalled. The tuna scrape had been used to make up nearly 71 percent of sushi orders in the outbreak and 53 percent of "spicy tuna orders," the CDC stated.

Is there a correlation between tuna scrape and the "pink slime" used in beef products? Ken Gall, Extension Associate at Cornell University and a member of the National Seafood HACCP Alliance Steering Committee doesn't think so.

"[Pink slime] is a product that's treated, and treated in a way to sterilize it, which is going to coagulate protein and be a whole different process," he told Food Safety News.

However, he does point out that "if it was known that the company was going to be selling to sushi restaurants and/or grocery stores knowing it's a higher-risk product, you would expect more testing to occur."

Several processing plants went bankrupt in the wake of the "pink slime" backlash, and it remains to be seen whether there will be similar actions now that tuna scrape has been exposed.

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