When you are looking for a nice steak, pork chops or chicken at your grocery store one of the main things you look for is the color of the meat.
No one wants a steak that’s grey and discolored. You typically look for the red juicy steak that you believe to look “fresh.”
Well, looks can be deceiving.
Treated with carbon monoxide
Yes, that’s right, meat is treated with carbon monoxide to keep it fresh for weeks! As you see in the video above, the meat that was not treated with carbon monoxide began to change color in about four days while the treated one remained red for a few weeks.
This tactic is used to trick consumers into believing the meat they purchase is fresh when in reality it could have been sitting on the shelf for weeks.
This is not only true for meat, but for seafood as well!
Banned in other countries
Other countries such as Japan and Canada have banned carbon monoxide gas in their meat. According to the The Washington Post, Europe has banned the use of carbon monoxide in meat to make it appear fresh years ago.
They note that the European Union has banned the use of carbon monoxide as a color stabilizer in meat and fish.
A December 2001 report from the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food concluded that the gas (whose chemical abbreviation is “CO”) did not pose a risk as long as food was kept cold enough during storage and transport to prevent microbial growth. But should the meat become inadvertently warmer at some point, it warned, “the presence of CO may mask visual evidence of spoilage.”
How is it, many ask, that something can be deemed “generally recognized as safe” when there is enough scientific debate over the issue to warrant a ban in Europe?
Is carbon monoxide gas dangerous?
There is much debate on whether carbon monoxide treated meat is harmful to human health. The healthy home economist shares that it may be more dangerous than the FDA says.
Carbon monoxide is fatal if inhaled in large amounts because the CO molecule attaches to hemoglobin in the blood and replaces oxygen in the bloodstream. Even minor exposure can cause fatigue, headaches and confusion. Increasing exposure leads to unconsciousness and then death. Individuals who are fortunate enough to survive poisoning with carbon monoxide frequently continue to suffer from neurological problems.
Despite the danger, consumer groups have been unsuccessful in recent years to stop the deceptive practice of treating supermarket meat with carbon monoxide.
Why is this continuing?
There is a huge demand for meat and seafood in the U.S. Because of this, meat packaging companies are trying to make the meat remain looking fresh when in reality, it could be 2 to 3 weeks old.
The meat industry would lose a great deal of money if the use of carbon monoxide was banned. They wouldn’t be able to fool the consumer anymore!
How to avoid carbon monoxide treated meat
The simplest way to avoid meat and seafood treated with carbon monoxide gas it to get it from your local farmer rather than at the grocery store. Typically local farmers markets have fresh seafood, pork, and many make it possible to buy a whole cow!
If you know the farmer selling the meat, you can typically trust that they are not treating their meat with any carbon monoxide gas. The other option is to get your meat directly from your local butcher.