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Health Risks Posed by Meat Treated with Carbon Monoxide

Posted: June 29, 2007

According to the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, Representatives John Dingell, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and Bart Stupak, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent letters to Safeway Stores and three major meat packaging companies demanding that they respond to concerns about the public health risks posed by meat treated with carbon monoxide. The Representatives questioned the companies’ practice of packing fresh meat in carbon monoxide, which artificially colors the product and disguises spoilage. The Committee noted that carbon monoxide treated products find their way onto grocery store shelves through an FDA approval process called Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).

More than a year ago, Energy and Commerce Committee members raised concerns about the dangers carbon monoxide packaging poses to the public health, particularly the elderly. Now the Committee plans to open an investigation into the FDA’s GRAS approval process. Representative Stupak said, “we refuse to let the FDA continue stonewalling consumers and Congress about this dangerous deception. We are particularly concerned about the FDA’s decision in light of our discovery of carbon monoxide treated fish from China and other Asian countries that are regularly rejected for spoilage. The American people deserve to know whether FDA was aware of the apparent masking of spoiled fish with carbon monoxide when it determined that its use was ‘Generally Recognized As Safe.’”

The Committee hasn’t expressed an interest in flavors at this point, but that could occur in the future. FEMA representatives will be carefully scrutinizing the actions of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on this issue.

Click here to view the press release on this issue. The letter from Representatives Dingell and Stupak to the meat packaging companies can be viewed by clicking here.