The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture allow small doses of carbon monoxide in packaging meats. The process is known as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) and keeps meat looking red in the package for longer periods of time. A fierce regulatory battle was launched after allegations that recent research reports were misinterpreted. Opposing groups focus on whether the red appearance of treated meat is a valid indicator for consumers who are trying to decide if the meat is fresh.
Major meat producers and other proponents claim the process is safe and reduces loss. When meat turns brown, it is usually discounted or thrown away, even though it may still be safe to eat. However, according to some consumer groups, adding carbon monoxide to the packaging deceives consumers in to thinking meat is fresher than it is. They also claim that date labels prepared by the USDA, falsely make consumers believe that meat will not spoil within the “use or freeze” date stamped on the packages.