Memorial Day is just a couple of weeks away and you know what that meansfire up those barbeques! But before you throw in the charcoal and start grilling, you may want to take a second look at the meat you are about to eat. A deceptive and questionable food technology approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration is making its way onto supermarket shelves. Carbon monoxide gas is being used in meat and fish packaging to create a red color typically associated with freshness. CO treatment means that consumers are more likely to eat spoiled meat that looks fresh (ick!).
As all you cooks know, meat not treated with carbon monoxide will begin to turn brown (or naturally oxidize) after approximately 10 to 12 days. But meat treated with carbon monoxide will retain its color and mask spoilage even when improperly stored for weeks at a time. And, the presence of CO can cause fish to accumulate dangerous levels of scombrotoxin or histamine and can mask a wide variety of pathogens in meat including E. Coli and Salmonella.
Just in time for summer grilling, the nation‚ largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is going to sell CO-treated meat in its stores , and is even taking the technology one step further. Wal-mart is using an even more deceptive packaging system, called the ‚motherbag” system, whereby meat treated with carbon monoxide is packaged to look like it was prepared at an in-store deli. This means Wal-Mart can keep the meat on the shelves longer, while people may be buying meat that is more than a month old.
What exactly is a ‚motherbag”?
Usually, CO-treated meat is placed in ‚modified atmosphere packaging.” Youd probably call it shrink-wrapped.
In the motherbag system, the meat is placed on a tray and is wrapped with permeable cellophane before being treated with carbon monoxide. After the individual package has been wrapped (to look like it was prepared on-site), it is then placed in a tray on a cart with other packages of meat. The entire cart is then wrapped with a large plastic bag and infused with carbon monoxide. As the meat travels to the stores in the carts, CO will seep through the cellophane.
See for yourself what this looks like in the photo taken at a Wal-Mart store. This meat has been treated with carbon monoxide, although it looks like it has been packaged right at the store.
And the worst part about this technology? There is no labeling requirement for products treated with carbon monoxide. So the best thing to do is just be careful and make sure to read the expiration dates on packaging! And as always, make sure to cook meat properly.
Have a fun and SAFE holiday!