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Range Gourmet

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        ^BNanette^K^H (Gone but not forgotten) 1946-2020


Thursday, February 23, 2006


Carbon dioxide used in meat packaging to mask spoilage

The blogosphere and the press are abuzz after reports appeared that the Consumer Federation of America had urged the government in January to ban the use of carbon monoxide in meat packaging.

While the gas itself is safe in the quantities used, the effect of its use in packaging is that meat retains its appealing red color even if it has spoiled. Since most consumers wouldn't buy discolored meat, the gassing means that stores reduce their losses from discarding meat that can't be sold--and consumers take home the bad meat instead.

One article summarizes the situation very well:
Consumer groups agree that carbon monoxide by itself is not a health risk, but meat buyers will be carried away by the color of the meat that is made possible by the gas rather that the expiry dates. The Consumer Federation of America told the FDA that carbon monoxide masks the natural coloration of meat by reacting with myoglobin in the meat and producing a bright red color. The artificial color has been found to last 'beyond the time of spoilage,' thus masking the true color and freshness of meat packaged with carbon monoxide."

Kalsec, which has represented the case before FDA, says carbon monoxide-treated meat could be left exposed at home for several days, but it would still look bright red and fresh. It says carbon monoxide suppresses bad odors and the presence of slime and other telltale signs of spoiled meat. It can also hide the growth of pathogens.

Although the use of carbon monoxide in the packaging of meat and tuna is banned in the European Union, apparently our own FDA has no problem with it (don't blame me, I voted for Kerry). Canada, Singapore and Japan also disallow the use of carbon monoxide treatment for packing tuna.

I first heard about this new outrage in a short podcast produced by WSQT Guerilla Radio from Washington, DC. Click here to listen.

Other articles include here (with pictures), and here. A Google search will turn up many more articles.


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