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Chicago Ordinance Seeking to Ban Meat Packaging Eliminates Important Choice For Consumers

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Chicago, Ill., March 23, 2006 – A proposed city ordinance that would ban a form of meat packaging within the Chicago city limits is unscientific, unconstitutional and would eliminate an important choice for consumers, the American Meat Institute will tell the Chicago City Council in testimony today.

According to American Meat Institute Foundation Vice President of Scientific Affairs Dr. Randy Huffman, an expert on meat safety and quality, the technology at issue is a system that removes oxygen from meat packages and adds protective gases including minute amounts of carbon monoxide. Huffman noted in written testimony that just as oxygen can cause an apple to turn brown, it has a similar effect on meat making it appear less appealing when it is actually wholesome and safe to consume. This packaging system helps meat maintain its red color during its shelf life so that it is appealing to consumers.

He noted that claims about the technology have been advanced by the maker of a competing technology that will benefit if this packaging system fails.

“It is regrettable that Chicagoans – who purchased and enjoyed meat packaged in this fashion for several years – are being subjected to a baseless food safety scare,” Huffman said. He noted that during the time period that this technology has been used, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that foodborne illnesses have declined. U.S. Department of Agriculture data likewise show that bacteria in meat products have declined during this time period.

Huffman also noted that a wide array of foods sold in grocery stores utilize a variety of gases in the package to maintain color, flavor , freshness or other quality attributes, including snack foods, bag salads, pre-cut produce, peanuts and a host of other products.

“Claiming that the use of minute amounts of one gas in meat packages is somehow cause for concern flies in the face of science and the eight instances in which USDA and FDA have examined and affirmed the product’s safety and suitability,” Huffman said.
He also rebutted claims that maintaining meat’s red color could mask spoilage by noting that products packaged in this way have use-by dates. In addition, he said that if products were temperature abused during their shelf life, packages would bulge, meat would appear slimy and an unmistakable spoilage odor would be apparent upon opening the package.

According to Huffman, the legal counsel for the American Meat Institute yesterday advised city officials in writing that this proposed ordinance is unconstitutional because federal law would preempt the ordinance. He said the only thing the City of Chicago will gain by allowing this ordinance to advance is a large legal bill to defend an unconstitutional local ordinance.

“Unfortunately, the victims of this campaign are both the truth, and unfortunately, consumers,” Huffman said. “This bill should be voted down in committee, because the food safety charges made against this technology are not only false, but are made by those who stand to gain market share if this technology is eventually banned. The Chicago City Council should show that it will not be used as a pawn in a company’s scramble to maintain its market share by terrifying consumers about the safety of the meat products they purchase for their families.“

For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
Sr. Vice President, Public Aff

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