Have you every walked down the meat aisle at your local grocery store and noticed how red the meat is every day? Well, the truth is, gases are added to these pieces of meat to keep them “red” and appearing “fresh” for as long as a few weeks.
Chief investigative journalist from Inside Edition, Lisa Guerrero, recently investigated the deal with the redness of packaged meat. She found out that meat is packed and gassed through a special process using harmless amounts of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. By doing so, the meat can keep its red colour for a long period of time.
However, while the amounts of gasses used are considered harmless, can the process of keeping meat red be safe for consumers, or is it misleading?
Guerrero spoke to Dr. Ed Mills, a professor of meat science at Penn State University, to find answers.
“How long through this process can you continue to make a piece of red meat look bright red?” Guerrero asked.
“A long time,” Dr. Mills replied. In fact, according to Dr. Mills, meat can stay on the shelves for as long as 2-3 weeks; however, its colour does not necessarily indicate its freshness.
“A consumer can’t look at the products to tell it’s two weeks or three weeks old,” he said. “They have to look at the ‘sell by’ date of the package.”
Inside Edition put together an experiment, leaving two pieces of lamb outside at room temperature, in which one was gas-packed while the other one was not.
A few days into the experiment, the untreated piece of meat turned a gross colour while the gas-packed meat kept its red colour. Even at eight days the gas-packed meat stayed bright red!
Afterwards, both of the pieces of meat were sent to be analyzed in a lab, where it was found that they both contained great amounts of bacteria.
In fact, according to Dr. Mills, he cannot assume that a piece of gas-packed meat is safe to eat if it is not refrigerated.
While gas packaging has been approved by the FDA and USDA and claimed to be safely used in meat products by the North American Meat Institute, packaged meat was reclassified by the World Health Organization as a Group 1 carcinogen last year, which is also where tobacco, arsenic and asbestos were placed. It’s about time to reconsider the supposed “benefits” of consuming packaged meat.