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Numerous published reports say that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is under pressure from some quarters to ban the usage of carbon monoxide to treat meat so it maintains a bright pink color.

The Washington Post reports that “the growing use of carbon monoxide as a ‘pigment fixative’ 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 and the nation's powerful meat industry, saying the agency violated its own rules by allowing the practice without a formal evaluation of its impact on consumer safety.”

The New York Times reports this morning that “the carbon monoxide is itself harmless at the levels being used in the treated packaging. But opponents say that the process, which is also used to keep tuna rosy, allows stores to sell meat that is no longer fresh, and that consumers would not know until they opened the package at home and smelled it. Labels do not note whether meat has been laced with carbon monoxide.”

The Post notes that “no one knows how much carbon-monoxide treated meat is being sold; the companies involved are privately held or keep that information secret. But the potential is seen as great. The new technology ‘will finally make this the case-ready revolution, rather than the case-ready evolution,’ said Mark Klein, director of communications for Cargill's meat business.”
KC's View:
Just on the face of it, we can’t imagine that this sort of labeling has any other purpose than to deceive customers…though we admit that we are hardly expert in such matters.

But we do know something about transparency – and know that any process that isn’t completely open and above-board in terms of disclosure is a bad idea. At the very least, it ought to be mandatory that packaging indicate if carbon monoxide is being used and for what purpose.