Ammonium Hydroxide

Ammonium Hydroxide

As a part of our commitment to provide the safest lean beef possible, our research drove us to create the pH enhancement process, which relies upon slightly increasing the level of ammonium hydroxide already present in beef in order to elevate its pH. Ammonium hydroxide is naturally found in beef, other proteins, and virtually all foods. It is widely used in the processing of numerous foods, such as baked goods, cheeses, gelatins, chocolate, caramels, and puddings. One result of this food safety system is the dramatic reduction in the number of potential pathogens that may be present in foods, such as E.coli O157:H7.

Ammonia/ammonium hydroxide is one of a number of processing aids used with meat and poultry in order to ensure the safety of these foods before they are delivered to consumers. The pH enhancement process is an important component of our overall food safety effort. By adding a tiny amount of ammonia (gas) to the beef, we raise the pH in the beef to help kill any harmful bacteria that could possibly be present.

Maybe the graphic below helps to put it into a little better perspective. Ammonia based compounds are naturally occurring and can be found in every component of a bacon cheeseburger (bun, bacon, cheese, condiments, and beef). Baked goods, including breads will have ranges from 400 to 32,000 ppm (for the sake of illustration, we'll use the low end of the range). Bacon has approximately 48,000 ppm nitrogen (nitrates), with 160 ppm in the form of ammonia. Condiments, relishes, and cheeses have levels up to 8,000 ppm (for the sake of illustration, we'll use 400 ppm for the condiments and 1,000 ppm for American cheese). Between the naturally occurring levels and small amounts used in our food safety system, beef may have about 200 ppm. So, for the illustration, we've taken these amounts and multiplied by the weight of the typical bacon double cheeseburger to show the full picture.

Bacon Cheesburger
  • Bun - 2 oz = 50 mg (440 ppm)
  • Bacon - 1 oz = 16 mg (160 ppm)
  • Condiments – 2 oz = 50 mg (400 ppm)
  • Cheese – 1.5 oz = 76 mg (813 ppm)
  • Beef – 3.2 oz = 40 mg (200 ppm)

This is really nothing new. In fact, the presence or use of ammonia in foods has been studied for years. For example, the table below contains information developed in 1973 as part of a study printed in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Food

NH3 (ppm)

Food

NH3 (ppm)

Food

NH3 (ppm)

American Cheese

813

French Dressing

134

Orange Juice

35

Apples

11

Grapefruit

166

Peaches

24

Bacon

161

Grapes

87

Peanut Butter

489

Beer

1

Grape Wine

18

Pears

30

Beer Cheese

917

Gelatin

342

Pecans

71

Bread

30

Green Peas

60

Pickle Relish

87

Brewer's yeast

217

Ground Beef

101

Potato Chips

240

Broccoli

62

Half milk/half cream

116

Radishes

44

Brussels sprouts

110

Ham

157

Raisins

95

Buttermilk

158

Hoap Cheese

616

Rice

1

Cabbage

17

Hot Dog

64

Salami

1112

Carrots

14

Idaho Potato

97

Spanish Olives

93

Catsup

352

Lemon juice

23

Spinach

10

Cauliflower

43

Lettuce

8

Squash

86

Cheddar Cheese

1104

Lima Beans

28

String Beans

7

Chicken

171

Margarine

211

Sweet Potatoes

18

Corn

14

Mayonnaise

411

Tilsit Cheese

552

Cucumbers

47

Milk

20

Tomatoes

37

Domestic Blue Cheese

1376

Mushrooms

66

Turnip Greens

29

Egg White

4

Mustard

35

   

Egg Yolk

41

Onions

269