Monday, November 05, 2007

Meat Safety

Improved technology has now made it's way into your grocer's meatcase and it appears that we can no longer judge our meat by color alone. As reported in this article from ABC News, a nice red color doesn't always mean the meat you're buying is void of harmful bacteria.

The meat packaging industry is now using carbon monoxide to preserve the deep reddish color for consumers. The carbon monoxide helps the meat maintain the fresh look longer.

Another article from The Washington Post discusses whether the FDA should consider banning carbon monoxide treated meat from grocer shelves. Meat packers use this technique because it improves profitability. If consumers have a choice between purchasing a nice reddish color meat versus one that is not "fresh" looking (i.e. a color less than red), they'll most likely purchase the "redder" color every time.

The Consumer Federation of America is a consumer group that has petitioned the FDA to eliminate the use of carbon monoxide in meat packing. Seventy-eight out of a hundred people surveyed believe using carbon monoxide to treat meat is deceptive, according to a CFA press release dated September 2006.

I am in agreement that it's deceptive and believe the FDA should require labels on all meat that is packaged using these techniques to help maintain the appearance of freshness. And while they are at it, they should also require labels for any meat that is imported from outside the U.S.

This development is another example of the trust we place in those who prepare our food. I don't go to just any doctor that puts up a shingle and I don't buy my meat just anywhere, certainly not from a door to door salesman; and you shouldn't either.


Hogwild said...

BBQ Guy,

I'm not sure what to think about this. I am sure, however, to take the surveys with a grain of salt. People hear 'carbon monoxide' and immediately think 'poisoning', which will definitely not happen in this case. It does not take long for a piece of red meat to lose that nice red appearance, especially when exposed to oxygen. It will lose it's red tint without a noticeable loss in flavor for several days. So, I understand why they are doing it. It's not because they want to sell you weeks old meat that may not be safe (that's not good for their bottom line), it's because they don't want you to think that the meat doesn't taste good because it doesn't have that "fresh" look. On the other hand, I do like to know what my meat has been subject to. So, I'm squarely on the fence with the CO labeling.

I would love to see country of origin labeling, though.

Anonymous said...

I think it re-emphasizes the importance of checking the "sell by" date on anything we buy in the grocery store.