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AMI Statement on Legislation to Require Labels on Modified Atmosphere Packaging With Minute Levels of Carbon Monoxide

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Meat products packaged in low oxygen modified atmosphere packaging with minute levels of carbon monoxide (Low-Ox MAP with CO) are products we should be proud of because they are safe, delicious, and convenient and they have been carefully analyzed by food safety experts within government and at leading universities.

It is regrettable that with so many pressing issues before the Congress, some lawmakers have become party to a competitive attack engaged in by a company that may lose business because this new technology is succeeding. Ironically, that same company’s patented product also maintains meat’s red color, but uses a chemical extract of rosemary instead of a gas mix.

Packaging technologies and materials are not labeled on foods. If they were, then many foods, such as potato chips and peanuts, would have to label the gases that keep them crispy and bagged produce would carry labels that declare the gases that help maintain their fresh appearance. Instead, meat products that use this packaging system carry the labels that really matter: a USDA seal of inspection and a use-by date.

Thanks to modern food safety and packaging technology and scrupulous sanitation in today’s meat plants, we can now deliver longer shelf life on many meat products. Unfortunately, when oxygen contacts meat, it turns it brown prematurely and that brown color can mislead consumers into thinking a product is no longer wholesome. Eliminating oxygen from the package and using a minute level of carbon monoxide, in combination with nitrogen and carbon dioxide, these meat packages makes the color match the actual shelf life. This benefits consumers because it is more appealing and helps control costs. When meat turns brown prematurely, it often is discarded, which drives up costs to meat processors, retailers and ultimately to consumers.

We oppose special labeling unique to this packaging system because it would mislead consumers into thinking they should be concerned about it. This technology is safe and beneficial. Data collected by meat companies show there is a higher level of customer satisfaction with this particular system.

We urge lawmakers to learn the facts about this outstanding technology and to disassociate themselves from the profit motives of a competing firm and its baseless attack on a safe product. Consumers deserve better from their elected leaders.

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