The huge meat processing and packaging companies, Hormel and Cargill, went before Congress in Washington, D.C. to defend the practice of adding carbon monoxide to the meat packaging process. The process retards the discoloration that can occur as packaged red meat sits in the meat case, unsold.
The idea of adding gases to meat packaging is not new. There are numerous U.S. patents, some many years old for various methods of doing this. The different methods use different gases to accomplish the same thing, keep meat looking pink and fresh, no matter how old it might be.
The gas keeps meat an appealing red for more than 20 days — about twice as long as other popular packaging and far longer than the few days unwrapped meat stays red in a butcher’s case.
Consumers — who consider color when picking meat — will be fooled into buying spoiled or old meat and not smell trouble until they open the package at home. The packaging presents “serious consumer deception and food-safety risks,” Kalsec says in a filing to the Food and Drug Administration. It wants the practice banned.
Kalsec has waged a two-year fight and spent $800,000 to battle food regulators and meat producers over a fledgling practice of packaging fresh meat with a harmless dose of carbon monoxide
One congressman sat at a table piled with year old red meat that still had its “fresh” pink color intact. He stated that “the sole purpose” of the carbon monoxide packaging process is to deceive consumers, making them think that the red meat they are considering purchasing is fresher than it truly is. I think he even used the words “old” and “decayed”.
The meat industry spends a lot of money re-wrapping fresh meat to preserve its appearance for consumers. The industry also loses a considerable sum every year because of discolored meat that must be discounted in order to sell or sometimes discarded. There is also almost no scientific debate about the safety of adding carbon monoxide or other gases to meat packaging. The process is generally accepted as safe for the consumer. Many scientists and food safety officials claim that meat appearance has never been an accurate indicator of whether red meat is good or not. They say consumers need to watch the dates on the meat packages and use that in their buying decisions. The consumer advocates that are being vocal on the issue seem to have the same concerns that they have about irradiated meat, namely that the meat should be labeled if it is treated by carbon monoxide. The meat companies are strongly opposed to the labeling idea. They feel that consumers will choose not to purchase meat treated with a gas commonly associated with the exhaust system of their cars, even if there is no health risk involved.
Interestingly, a search of the Hormel web site turns up no references to carbon monoxide. A search of the Cargill site does find 2 PDF’s and a web page that mention carbon dioxide, but none of these have anything to do with the packaging of meat. Rather they are related to emissions from their meat packing plants.
70% of ALL Beef and Chicken has been treated with Carbon Monoxide Gas. It makes bad meat look good even though it may have spoiled. The practice of treating meat with carbon monoxide could hide thegrowth of pathogens such as Clostridium Botulinum, Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7.
How many people have become poisoned by this chemical technique that creates a false appearance of freshness?