Carbon Monoxide and Meat

From the New York Times comes this tidbit of a story:

If some of the meat in supermarkets is looking rosier than it used to, the reason is that a growing number of markets are selling it in airtight packages treated with a touch of carbon monoxide to help the product stay red for weeks.

This form of “modified atmosphere packaging,” a technique in which other gases replace oxygen, has become more widely used as supermarkets eliminate their butchers and buy precut, “case-ready” meat from processing plants.

Carbon Monoxide was allowed via an end around of our food laws. You see, US department of agriculture’s regulations prohibit the introduction of ingredients in fresh meat that function to conceal damage or inferiority, or give the appearance the product is of better or greater value. So how did the meat industry get around this?

They went to the Food and Drug Administration instead. This is akin to a child asking permission to go to a party from the mother, because they know that the father well say no.

The FDA accepted then accepted this process as “Generally Recognized As Safe”, meaning since no one has been proven to become ill from this gassing technique, then it’s probably okay.

Of course, companies aren’t required to tell you that they’ve gassed your meat. Why? Because we probably wouldn’t buy it.

Meanwhile, other countries of the world have banned the practice. The European Union has prohibited the use of carbon monoxide for meat and tuna products, stating that “the stable cherry-colour can last beyond the microbial shelf life of the meat and thus mask spoilage.” Japan, Canada and Singapore have also banned the use of carbon monoxide.

At the very least, consumers should have the right to know which products have been gassed, safe or not. But even safety may be an issue. As was reported in the Times, one study found that when meat in modified packages that included carbon monoxide was stored at 10 degrees above the proper temperature, salmonella grew more easily than if left untreated.

Isn’t nice when food industries have more say over our food supply?

As always, let me remind you all of the one way to avoid this sort of stuff — Find a butcher you know and trust and have them cut the meat in front of you. 99% of all of the crap that the agri-business pulls will be avoided this way.

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