By January 22, 2013 8 Comments Read More →

Decayed Meat Treated With Carbon Monoxide To Make It Look Fresh At The Grocery

Natasha Longo, Prevent Disease
Waking Times 

Most meat eaters may be unaware that more than 70% of all beef and chicken in the United States, Canada and other countries is being treated with poisonous carbon monoxide gas. It can make seriously decayed meat look fresh for weeks. The meat industry continues to allow this toxic gas injection into many of the meat products people consume on a daily basis. The question is, how many people have become ill by this chemically altered meat that is being sold to families all over the world?

Carbon monoxide (often referred to as CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, one measly oxygen molecule away from the carbon dioxide we all exhale. But that one molecule makes a big difference in that it does very, very bad things to the human body at very, very low concentrations.

CO is toxic because it sticks to hemoglobin, a molecule in blood that usually carries oxygen, even better than oxygen can. When people are exposed to higher levels of CO, the gas takes the place of oxygen in the bloodstream and wreaks havoc. Milder exposures mean headaches, confusion, and tiredness. Higher exposures mean unconsciousness and death, and even those who survive CO poisoning can suffer serious long-term neurological consequences.

The Canadian Meat Packers Council recommends that the internal meat temperatures not go above 39 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 degrees Celsius. That has also been defined by other international meat regulators as the optimum storage temperature of meat. Even small increases of one or two degrees can cause a huge increase in bacterial growth. For example, an increase in the temperature of -1.5 degrees Celsius to 2 degrees Celsius would cut the shelf life of meat in half.

However, keeping meat at these temperatures is very challenging for grocery retailers. The actual surface temperature of displayed fresh meat is often much higher than the thermometer of the display case due to UV radiation from the display case lighting which penetrates the meat packaging and heats the surface just as the sun can cause a sunburn on a cold winter day. Various studies have found that the internal temperature of meat from display cases does exceed 50 degrees Fahrenheit which is more than 10 degrees higher than recommended temperatures.

The meat consequently decomposes very quickly, so the meat industry heavily invested in modified atmospheric packaging which utilizes carbon monoxide gas to extend the shelf life and resist spoilage.

In a carbon monoxide system, with low oxygen, the carbon monoxide will react with the myoglobin and give the meat a bright red colour. The low oxygen mixture artificially limits the growth of spoilage organisms that are commonly caused by increased levels of heat in display cases.

So although carbon monoxide is a gas that can be fatal when inhaled in large quantities, the meat industry insists that it is not harmful to human health when ingested via atmospheric packaging.

This is not true of course since C. perfringens bacteria, the third-most-common cause of food-borne illness, has been proven to grow on what is considered fresh meat right out of the supermarket that is well within the expiry dates on the labels. Marissa Cattoi a lab tech who analyzes meat samples for a health and safety agency says the bacteria are commonly found on fresh grocery meat. “We commonly test for C.perfringens bacteria and about half of the fresh meat products that come in are positive despite them being within the expiry period. 100% of the these cases come from packagers who adopted atmospheric packaging methods such as the use of carbon monoxide gas,” she stated.

The United States, Canada, Australia, the U.K and many European countries currently utilize atmospheric packaging practices to prevent meat from spoiling.

About the Author

Natasha Longo has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.


  • Who cares

    There are many (many) toxic man-made substances in our food (gm, preservatives, hormones, etc.) However, with a little bit of knowledge about the topic you can see how stupid this sounds. Carbon monoxide is a toxic GAS because it gets confused for oxygen by our body. Therefore the harm that it does is because of the lack of real oxygen that hemoglobin should be carrying. The digestive system does not absorb oxygen or any other gas, so all this just seems a bit ridiculous.

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  • abinico warez

    Decayed meat is a delicacy – it’s called ‘aged’.

  • I was sitting on a plane next to a guy who packaged seafood for a living. He was almost laughing about the fact he had just come from some Asian conference where he learned how to package “Tailpipe Tuna”. This is tuna injected with carbon monoxide so that it looked fresh much longer. That was bad enough, but the labeling, although technically accurate, was designed to be highly deceptive. It was labeled “CO-PROCESSED” The “CO” looking like part of CO Operative or CO Allition, but it actually was the abbreviation for Carbon Monoxide. This is damn sleezy if you ask me.

    • Anonymous

      At least it SAID CO-processed. How many Asians are laughing at tailpipe tuna eating Americans?

  • roger

    No, not mad, unless you try to force it on people who prefer meat in their diet. Humans have been eating meat for millions of years. It’s only been in the past couple of decades or so that “problems” with meat and “solutions” have been propagated to the masses. The problems are mostly man-made. Most people think that fresh meat is the best, however, cured meat that will taste best. The cooking process, if done properly, kills bad bugs and promotes nutrition. Improper cooking (too rare or too well-done) promotes all the bad stuff we hear about. A grey steak on the grocer shelf will cook up better than a bright red one.

    • Juliet

      So because humans have been doing it for millions of years it’s okay to keep doing. Stop making excuses. Go vegan.

  • Kukulkan

    And people think I’M mad for being vegetarian….

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