Carbon Monoxide in Food Packaging
• In 2002, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the use of carbon monoxide in food packaging without conducting any independent scientific research on the safety of the process or on its potential health effects on consumers.
• Carbon monoxide is used in the processing of packaged meats in order to maintain the meat color and to extend shelf life.
• Food additives and substances that impact a food’s color or appearance are required to be formally reviewed by law. However, no formal review on meat packaged with carbon monoxide has ever been conducted.
• Although there is no data showing that the ingestion of carbon monoxide is inherently dangerous, there are concerns that the use of carbon monoxide in meat packaging could pose potential dangers for the health and well-being of American consumers. See below.
• Stop Foodborne Illness disagrees with proponents of carbon monoxide in meat packaging who state that food safety is not an issue in the process.
• We are concerned that problems in storage, handling, or temperature abuse with carbon monoxide-treated meat could render the meat unsafe to eat while it retains a fresh appearance.
• Stop Foodborne Illness does NOT support using carbon monoxide in food packaging and has enacted the following efforts to protest the process:
– In January 2006, we co-signed a letter with the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) asking the FDA and USDA to revisit their acceptance of carbon monoxide usage in case-ready meats as a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substance.
– In June 2008, along with five of the nation’s leading consumer groups, Stop Foodborne Illness declared the government’s two and a half year delay on the petition “inexcusable” and urged the FDA and USDA to immediately ban the use of carbon monoxide in case-ready meat packaging pending a thorough legal and scientific review.