<!-- Begin meta tags generated by ORblogs --> </meta name="keywords" content="progressive, liberal, politics, government, edit, language, grammar, accuracy, honesty, clarity, world, news, media" /> </> <!-- End meta tags generated by ORblogs -->> Editor at Large: Want some carbon monoxide with that steak?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Want some carbon monoxide with that steak?

Well, you might not have a choice, because some stores are selling meat in airtight packages treated with carbon monoxide. Yes, carbon monoxide - the poisonous gas that can kill you. So why do they use it on meat? Because it helps the meat stay red longer - which makes it look fresh longer.

In fact, carbon monoxide can make meat look fresh even when it isn't.

The process is FDA-approved, and it works like a charm. Both of the steaks in this photo were red when bought on February 3. The top one had been treated with carbon monoxide. They were both refrigerated and then photographed on February 16. The top one looks fresher, but it isn't.

The FDA says carbon monoxide is harmless at the levels being used in the treated packaging, but they've said that about other products that turned out to be harmful. Also, meat labels don't have to tell you whether the meat has been treated with carbon monoxide, so you never know if you're buying treated meat. You also don't know when you're buying meat that only looks fresh - you wouldn't know it was spoiled until you opened the package at home and smelled it.

There's another problem: One study found that when meat treated with carbon monoxide was stored at 10 degrees above the proper temperature, salmonella grew more easily.

Representative John D. Dingell (D-Michigan) has asked the FDA to explain its approval of the process. He says, "It's just common sense that when consumers buy meat, they use color as an important indicator of its freshness. For F.D.A. to rely on a promise of some stamp on the package that says 'use or freeze by' is just naive."



Blogger Emily said...

That's really frightening.

However, there are a few problems with the article that make it really misleading and unfair to the FDA. This line in particular: "but they've said that about other products that turned out to be harmful." The author gives no examples. This is an understated "danger." It's intended to frighten rather than to inform or make any real comparison, and it's sloppy journalism.

modified atmosphere packaging is something that's been around for a long while, especially with parishables. I read

The FDA says that the levels of carbon monoxide used are harmless to people, and most likely that's true. I've been googling, but it seems that using CO for MAP has been approved on meat since 2001. That's five years ago. Why is this story only now surfacing? (link to the study that points this out: Goggle html link or grab the pdf: http://www.beef.org/uDocs/packagingimprovesshelf-life.pdf.

one of the points of that study was also that the use of CO in MAP can prevent "premature browning", meaning the meat won't turn brown until FULLY cooked, which would actually prevent food poisoning.

if you're interested in this, you should google more. read more of the studies. This article is seemingly trying to incite a reaction against the FDA. It's not responsible journalism because they don't bring up the science behind why this method is deemed acceptable. they're only bringing out the science behind its risks (which the FDA balances with the advantages and places safeguards. In this "opinion of the scientific community" by the EC (http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/sc/scf/out112_en.pdf), they say that .3%-.5% concentration of CO in meat is harmless. Notice in the earlier link, the max FDA level is stated at .4%. The closest they got in this article to giving "the other side" was by getting an email statement from that democrat who asked the FDA about it. The reporter didn't actually do any research on why the FDA approved it or look into the science of the technique at all. Oh, and lastly, the point about salmonella growing more easily is misleading because if anyone is storing their meat at 10 degrees higher than what you are supposed to, you're going to get rancid meat, period. it doesn't say how much faster the bacteria grew, or how that rate compared to the rate in other types of food or anything else. It's only giving one side.

Anyway, like I said... don't trust the media to always tell the whole story. The FDA isn't a conspirator in the pocket of the meat industry. They're out for our own good too.


7:51 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

also, I apologize that my comment was so poorly formatted. I'm writing in a rush actually. I know my own sloppiness makes me look stupid, but I wanted to say something before i run off to class.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Editor at Large said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Emily. You are correct that we should have provided examples of other things the FDA has approved that have turned out to be harmful, such as DES, thalidomide, Aspartame, and Vioxx. Also, of course one shouldn't refrigerate meat (or anything else) at 10 degrees warmer than optimum; the point here is that doing so with CO-treated meat increases the risk of salmonella over and above the risk caused by inadequate refrigeration alone.

You give us way more credit than we deserve by asking us to be "responsible journalists." All we're trying to do is alert readers to possible potholes on the road to their own awareness. But we will try to be more careful that we don't create more potholes in the process!

11:17 AM  
Blogger Ms. Lori said...

Hey now, I like my ancient, steeped in E-coli steak to look fresh as a daisy, damnit. Lay off, already, will ya?

12:34 PM  

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