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January 22, 2006

BehindTheMedspeak: Episode 2 — 'What does carbon monoxide [in beef] do to you — if you eat it?'


Episode 1 appeared back on October 26, 2004 and focused on the interesting news, not well known until then, that sushi tuna is gassed with carbon monoxide to keep it looking and bright red and tasty even though it might be rotten.

Well, guess what?

Just breaking out into wide public view is the controversy over gassing beef with carbon monoxide to keep it looking bright red and fresh long after it would normally spoil and turn brown.


Who knew?

From yesterday's Washington Post:

    FDA Urged to Reverse Policy on Gas in Meat

    Two consumer groups have joined in an effort to get the Food and Drug Administration to reverse a policy allowing the addition of carbon monoxide to meat as a way to make it look fresher.

    The gas keeps meat looking red long after it would normally turn brown.

    In response to a request from meat packagers — and based on data provided by them — the FDA designated the approach "generally regarded as safe" in 2004.


    Opponents have petitioned the agency to reverse the decision.

    This week the watchdog groups Consumer Federation of America and Safe Tables Our Priority joined that effort.

    In a letter to the FDA's acting commissioner, Andrew C. von Eschenbach, they argued that carbon monoxide removes one of the best indicators of meat freshness available to consumers.


I really don't see why there's such a kerfuffle over this issue.

I mean, the meat industry has our best interests at heart — doesn't it?

So the fact that they provided the data that caused the FDA to designate carbon monoxide–gassed meat as safe doesn't mean it's not objective or anything like that.

I mean, the meat industry has told us on numerous occasions, with increasing vociferousness each time a mad cow is discovered, that "U.S. beef is the safest in the world."

You should learn to listen to and believe authority when it tells you something.

I mean, back in the day when Lee Iacocca ruled Ford he told us repeatedly that seat belts not only didn't save lives — they killed people!

Trust me... as they say.


Europeans aren't so credulous: in 2003 the EU prohibited the use of carbon monoxide for meat.

In its decision the European Commission's food safety regulator stated, "The stable cherry color can last beyond the microbial shelf life of the meat and thus mask spoilage."


What a bunch of pansies.

January 22, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Well that's that; I'm quitting beef.

Posted by: Victor | May 1, 2006 3:01:26 PM

I work as a butcher at a natural food store and
until recently I have worked at stores that tried to sell irradiated beef, then there was mad cow, and I suppose it was a matter of time before the giants of meat suppliers out there introduce a terrible
idea like this of adding carbon monoxide to meat. The whole idea that a cut could still look virtually as fresh as the day it was cut a month later or more is an absolutely deplorable. How in the world are
consumers supposed to safely tell what is still edible and what isn't....it only takes one case of poisoning or possibly worse to make this practice unsafe in my book. And if this is allowed to continue it WILL happen.
All I can say is I am not surprised when I learned exactly who developed this latest "improvement" for profits in the meat industry. I am genuinely happy that now where I work, all that we sell are natural or organic foods and our meat department only sells products from highly documented producers that do not add anything and have their own extensive policing policy in addition to the FDA to ensure that no producer ever misleads the public. As a worker in the meat retail business, I regard any misleading tampering with the natural process of aging, by addition of colorants or "masks" is obviously an unsafe practice. FDA needs to act on this. If it doesn't I would have to believe it is in the pocket of behemoth companies that will do anything to stretch their already high profits at our expense.

Posted by: Scott | Feb 22, 2006 4:11:49 AM

Hey, is Tom Cruise here?

Posted by: norm | Feb 21, 2006 2:23:35 PM

If we as the people of the USA do not stop and take responsibilty for our on health. we will find ourselves in the same shape as the animals we are eating. chickens, cows, pigs that can't stand up because of the growth hormone, they grow so fast their legs can't hold them up. Not only that look at the chemicals in your shampoo, toothpaste, mouth wash, dish soap, cleaners. Just type them in your search engine and then look at the poison they are and the medical problems they cause.THIS IS OUR OWN GOVERNMENT DOING THIS TO US. IT IS TIME FOR THE PEOPLE TO STAND UP AND MAKE OUR GOVERNMENT AND FOOD INDUSTRY, PHARMACUETIAL INDUSTRY STOP POISIONING US, JUST SO THEY CAN MAKE A BUCK. AT OUR EXPENSE AND THE COST OF THE LIVES OF OUR CHILDREN,

Posted by: Peggy | Feb 21, 2006 10:37:38 AM

brown meat is not spoiled meat, thats something most people know. meat turns brown long before it is microbiologically spoiled.

Posted by: Me | Feb 2, 2006 11:01:14 AM

Who wants pink meat anyway? It's far tastier when it starts to go grey. The local supermarket pulls meat off the shelf once it stops being pink, unless you happen to know the nice lady on the butchery counter who agrees with me that it's nicer when older.

Posted by: Skipweasel | Jan 22, 2006 4:28:48 PM

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