CHICAGO - Chicago supermarkets would be banned from selling meat that has undergone modified-atmosphere packaging, which uses carbon monoxide, under an ordinance proposed here.
"Every consumer should have the right to inspect a product for themselves and decide whether they wish to buy it based on the true appearance of its freshness," said Edward M. Burke, the Chicago alderman who sponsored the ordinance, in a statement.
Burke contends that CO MAP can mask spoilage and therefore it is deceptive. The European Union has banned the practice of using CO to stabilize the color of meat and fish, he said.
The packaging system involves a process where a combination of gases are used to displace oxygen in order to slow oxidation and help meat maintain its red color for weeks. If the ordinance is approved, supermarkets that carry the meats could face fines ranging from $250 to $500 per violation.
Donal Quinlan, Burke's press secretary, was not sure which grocers, if any, source meats that are packaged this way.
A meat manager contacted by SN at one of Dominick's Chicago stores was not sure whether the store sold meat in carbon monoxide packaging. Similarly, a representative who answered Dominick's customer-service hotline also was not aware of whether the store carried the products.
The meat manager at a Chicago-based Jewel-Osco said he was unfamiliar with CO MAP and didn't think any of the store's meats were packaged this way.
CO MAP is not widely used. About 60% of packaged meats use some form of modified atmosphere packaging, and just 5% of the products use CO MAP, according to the American Meat Institute Foundation, Washington.
The system made headlines last month after Kalsec, a Michigan-based producer of natural food extract that delays the browning of meat, petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to repeal its approval of CO MAP on the basis that it is not safe and deceptive to consumers.