In a counterpoint to a USA Today editorial, AMI Foundation Vice President of Scientific Affairs Randy Huffman, Ph.D., today said that “Meat products packaged with modified air are proven products that have food safety and quality benefits, documented by independent scientists and reviewed and accepted by the Agriculture Department (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)” and argued that banning or labeling this technology is unnecessary and unfair.

“The packages keep meat fresher longer, prevent spoilage and the ‘off’ flavors oxygen causes, and restrict harmful bacteria from growing if present,” Huffman said. In the op-ed, he explained that air includes gases like nitrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and oxygen, the enemy of freshness.

Traditional packaging allows oxygen in, causing meat to brown and lose freshness quickly. According to Huffman, by removing oxygen, but keeping some of the other gases in air — nitrogen, carbon dioxide and even carbon monoxide at a minute and safe level of 0.4% — meat stays fresh and red much longer. Similar packaging is used to keep sliced apples white and crispy, and snack foods crunchy.

“A well-financed campaign was waged by Kalsec, the Michigan-based maker of a rosemary chemical extract that also keeps meat red, though not as long as low-oxygen packaging. Kalsec has tried to convince home-state lawmakers that low-oxygen packaging works so well that if meat were left out of refrigeration overnight (something mandatory labels on every package say not to do) meat might spoil and still appear red,” he wrote. “What Kalsec doesn't want to discuss is that if meat in low-oxygen packaging were abused this badly, the package would bulge, the meat would become slimy and the package would have an overpowering stink upon opening — even if it appeared red.”

He noted that consumers have purchased more than 300 million of these packages with no food safety issues and a record-breaking level of satisfaction, according to industry tracking data.

“Lawmakers shouldn't fuel an unfounded food safety scare by pandering to the hometown donor. FDA, USDA, scientists and consumers have spoken. We should listen,” he concluded.

Follow this link to read the op-ed and USA Today’s editorial. The site also includes a blog where readers may comment.

Source: American Meat Institute