AMI Foundation Refutes Consumer Survey on CO and Meat

WASHINGTON -- The American Meat Institute Foundation here is refuting consumer research released by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) that claimed three out of four consumers were at least somewhat concerned about the practice of adding carbon monoxide (CO) to beef to make the meat appear bright red for up to several weeks longer than if left untreated.

The study, conducted by Opinion Research Corp. on behalf of CFA, found that 78 percent of consumers think the use of carbon monoxide to stabilize the red color of meat is deceptive, and 68 percent said they favor a law to make it mandatory to reveal that carbon monoxide was used for color stability on labeling. (Story continues below.)

Among the other findings of the study, which contacted 1,019 adult consumers in early September: 63 percent said that "freshness of meat is directly related to the color of the meat," and 74 percent felt that a 28-day shelf life for ground beef was too long and should not be allowed.

"Consumers are quite simply concerned about the addition of carbon monoxide to meat packaging," said Chris Waldrop, deputy director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America. "In fact, most consumers find the practice deceptive. The FDA needs to halt this practice immediately."

CFA has written to the Food and Drug Administration in support of a citizen's petition filed by Kalsec, Inc. in November 2005, asking FDA to prohibit the use of carbon monoxide in the packaging of fresh meat.

James H. Hodges, AMI foundation president, is among the CO advocates railing against CFA's recent survey, as well as Kalsec -- which Hodges characterized as "the maker of a technology that competes with this packaging system." He called on both organizations to "stop their baseless campaign designed to secure publicity for themselves -- and stop providing meaningless misinformation to consumers.

"Consumer research can be both used responsibly and abused for one’s own gain," continued Hodges. In this instance, "consumers appear to have been asked questions without sufficient background to offer a fully informed answer. In fact, if one takes the time to read the entire research report, you will see that when survey respondents were read a list of qualities that consumers use to purchase meat at a grocery store, use-by or sell-by dates was the most frequent answer."

In the CFA survey, 60 percent of respondents said they gave use-by or sell-by dates considerable weight in their purchasing decision, vs. 52 percent for color, said Hodges, noting that the federal government requires all meat packaged with low-oxygen modified-atmosphere technology to have a use-by date.

"If a research company asked consumers if they wanted to ban dihydrogenoxide, a major component of acid rain that can cause severe burns in the gaseous state, contributes to erosion, and has been found in tumors of cancer patients, chances are, the majority would say yes," said Hodges. However, he added, "If they understood that dihydrogenoxide is just another name for water, would they answer differently? Most certainly yes."
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