Consumer Groups Shut Out of Hearing on Deceptive Meat Packaging
Washington, DC — Four consumer groups are protesting not being given the opportunity to testify at an October 30, 2007 House Agriculture Committee hearing on a questionable food technology that is deceptive to consumers.
The four organizations, Food & Water Watch, Safe Tables Our Priority, Consumer Federation of America, and the Government Accountability Project, have been critical of decisions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow the use of carbon monoxide in meat packaging that artificially prolongs the color of red meat. The House Agriculture Committee has decided to hold a hearing on October 30 to provide a platform for the supporters of this deceptive technology, without hearing from consumer advocates who have been critical of this practice.
The consumer organizations sent a letter to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson on October 22, 2007 asking for the opportunity to testify, but they have not received a response (see attached).
‚I dont understand what the House Agriculture Committee is afraid of,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. ‚Both FDA and USDA have allowed a practice that defines month-old meat as being fresh because using carbon monoxide keeps the pigment of meat red longer than meat that is untreated. This technology can mask spoilage because the product appears to be perfectly fine. Congress needs to hear both sides of the story on this issue,” added Hauter.
Testing conducted by Consumer Reports and reported in the July 2006 issue indicated that some CO-treated meat available on supermarket shelves could be spoiled by its use, or freeze,by date. Consumer Reports recommends that consumers ‚check the package and buy meat whose stamped date is a couple of weeks away.”
‚The use of carbon monoxide in meat packaging is clearly deceptive to consumers,” said Donna Rosenbaum, Executive Director of Safe Tables Our Priority. ‚Consumers rely on color to make meat purchasing decisions. It is not surprising that the European Union has banned the practice because of the consumer deception issue.”
‚Consumer Federation of America commissioned a national poll in September 2006 that showed 78% of respondents considered the use of carbon monoxide in meat packaging to be a deceptive practice, and 68% strongly favored mandatory labeling of any meat product that was treated with carbon monoxide,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of CFA‚ Food Policy Institute.
‚I find it interesting that some in the meat industry continue to devote incredible resources to promote this deceptive technology when it is clearly becoming unpopular even within its own ranks,” remarked Jacqueline Ostfeld, Food and Drug Safety Officer for the Government Accountability Project. ‚Industry giant Tyson Foods stopped using carbon monoxide in its meat packaging because it stated that its customers were not requesting meat treated with this technology. Furthermore, supermarket chains such as Whole Foods, Kroger‚, Publix, Safeway, Giant Foods, Stop & Shop, and A & P have either never carried or have stopped carrying meat packaged with carbon monoxide because consumers just do not want to buy it” added Ostfeld.
In addition to the letter sent by these consumer groups, telephone calls and e-mails to House Agriculture Committee staff about the hearing went unanswered.