Monday, November 19, 2007

Hormel, Cargill agree to label food if treated with carbon monoxide

WASHINGTON (Thomson Financial) - Hormel Foods and Cargill Inc. said today they can agree to put information on meat and fish labels that makes it clear to consumers when those products have been treated with carbon monoxide during the packaging process, even as US officials indicated they are open to testing this process to ensure it's safe for consumers.

The use of carbon monoxide packaging was discussed at a hearing today before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, where Chairman Bart Stupak of Michigan said this technique in food packaging is 'highly deceptive' because it keeps meat looking fresh even though it may have spoiled.

He also offered evidence from an internal company email from Hormel indicating that there is some evidence this technique may not be safe.

Daniel Engeljohn of the US Food Safety and Inspection Service said in response to a question from Stupak that his agency is open to looking at this data or any new data that indicates the process is unsafe.

'We clearly will look at the data,' he said. Officials were silent, however, on whether they would temporarily suspend the use of this technique until further study is completed.

Engeljohn also said his office is considering a request from Target Corp. to use a label for carbon monoxide-treated meat saying that this treatment was used to preserve the color of the product, and that consumers should not rely on color alone to judge freshness.

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