By SARAH SKIDMORE

Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Supervalu Inc. says it will stop buying ground beef that contains the filler known as "pink slime" due to customer concerns.

The supermarket operator made the announcement Wednesday about the finely textured beef that has come under recent scrutiny.

Based in Eden Prairie, Minn., the company operates stores across the country under the brands Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw's/Star Market, Shop 'n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy.

Supervalu said that, while there are no food safety concerns about the filler, it has decided to stop carrying products with "pink slime" based on concerns customers have expressed.

The low-cost additive, in use for years, is made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The meat is heated, spun to remove the fat, compressed into blocks and, typically, exposed to ammonia to kill bacteria. Producers often mix it into fattier meat to produce an overall leaner product and reduce their costs.

Federal regulators say it meets food safety standards. But critics say the product could be unsafe and is an unappetizing example of industrialized food production.

The public outcry over "pink slime" has grown sharply as images, media reports and online petitions about it have spread.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this month that, beginning in the fall, the National School Lunch Program will allow school districts to decide whether to buy ground beef that does not contain the filler. Previously, it was difficult for schools to know whether the beef they bought from the feds had it or not.

As a result, a number of schools have said they will stop using the meat containing the controversial filler.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has spoken out against the filler, and fast-food chain McDonald's Corp. decided last year to stop putting ammonia-treated meat in its products.

Supervalu's shares fell 7 cents to close at $6.20 Wednesday and rose 3 cents in after-hours trading.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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