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FDA is urged to ban carbon-monoxide-treated meat

by 5m Editor
21 February 2006, at 12:00am

US - Picture two steaks on a grocer&#39;s shelf, each hermetically sealed in clear plastic wrap. One is bright pink, rimmed with a crescent of pearly white fat. The other is brown, its fat the color of a smoker&#39;s teeth. Which do you reach for? The meat industry knows the answer, which is why it has quietly begun to spike meat packages with carbon monoxide. The gas, harmless to health at the levels being used, gives meat a bright pink color that lasts weeks. The hope is that it will save the industry much of the $1 billion it says it loses annually from having to discount or discard meat that is reasonably fresh and perfectly safe but no longer pretty. But the growing use of carbon monoxide as a &quot;pigment fixative&quot; is alarming consumer advocates and others who say it deceives shoppers who depend on color to help them avoid spoiled meat. Those critics are challenging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the meat industry, saying the agency violated its own rules by allowing the practice without a formal evaluation of its impact on consumer safety. &quot;This meat stays red and stays red and stays red,&quot; said Don Berdahl, vice president and laboratory director at Kalsec Foods in Kalamazoo, Mich., a maker of natural food extracts that has petitioned the FDA to ban the practice. If nothing else, Berdahl and others say, carbon-monoxide-treated meat should be labeled so consumers will know not to trust their eyes. Meat-industry officials deny their foes&#39; claim that carbon monoxide is a &quot;colorant&quot; — a category that would require a full FDA review — saying it simply helps meat retain its naturally red color. <i>Source: The Seattle Times</i>

5m Editor