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Target Hopes to Label its Carbon Monoxide-Treated Meat

Target Hopes to Label its Carbon Monoxide-Treated Meat

Target plans to label its carbon monoxide-treated meat, but has no apparent plans to pull such meat from its shelves.

November 13, 2007 —

Target just asked the Department of Agriculture for permission to attach a label to its meat treated with carbon monoxide.  The label would explain to consumers that carbon monoxide is used to preserve the color of the meat, and serves as a warning to not rely solely on appearance when judging the quality of the meat.  While certainly thinking of its customers, Target has not followed Safeway and Tyson Foods, among others, and banned meat treated with carbon monoxide from its stores.

Target’s move to label meat is in response to congressional hearings that have examined a wider range of ingredients and chemicals that go into food. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed that carbon monoxide is safe—it is in the category of Generally Regarded as Safe—the European Union disallows its use due to the fear that carbon monoxide may hide indications that meat is spoiled. 

For a company so conscious of its public image, it remains a mystery why Target would not ban carbon monoxide-treated meat.  Target sells meat in only 210 of its 1,537 stores and the Department of Agriculture stated it would consider Target’s desired warning label, which reads:

CONSUMER NOTICE: Carbon monoxide has been used to preserve the color of this product. Do not rely on color or the 'use or freeze by' date alone to judge the freshness of the product. For best results please follow the Safe Handling Instructions.

Consumer groups have consistently opposed the use of carbon monoxide to treat meat since it tricks consumers into thinking meat is fresher than it really is.  Target has not decided to remove this sort of meat, but at least it is warning consumers of the potential risks.In contrast, both Hormel and Cargill defended the use of carbon monoxide in a recent hearing before the House Agriculture Committee.

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