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Before the start of World War I, most ammonia was obtained by the dry distillation of nitrogenous vegetable and animal waste products, including camel dung, where it was distilled by the reduction of nitrous acid and nitrites with hydrogen
In certain organisms, ammonia is produced from atmospheric nitrogen by enzymes called nitrogenases. The overall process is called nitrogen fixation. Although it is unlikely that biomimetic methods that are competitive with the Haber process will be developed, intense effort has been directed toward understanding the mechanism of biological nitrogen fixation. The scientific interest in this problem is motivated by the unusual structure of the active site of the enzyme, which consists of an Fe7MoS9 ensemble.
Ammonia is also a metabolic product of amino acid deamination catalyzed by enzymes such as glutamate dehydrogenase 1. Ammonia excretion is common in aquatic animals. In humans, it is quickly converted to urea, which is much less toxic, particularly less basic. This urea is a major component of the dry weight of urine. Most reptiles, birds, insects, and snails excrete uric acid solely as nitrogenous waste.
With the U.S.D.A.’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.
Thanks to findings presented by the New York Times, the USDA took away an exemption from routine testing it had given to meat from Beef Products, Inc., which supplies ammonia-injected beef to grocery stores and fast food chains including McDonald's and Burger King.
The Times found that some nasty stuff was popping up in the ammonia-injected meat:
But government and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the U.S.D.A. about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays.