Kalsec, the Michigan-based producer of spices, herbs and vegetable extracts for use in food, beverage, and pharmaceutical applications, has urged Congress to ban the use of carbon monoxide in fresh meat packaging if the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) fail to stop the practice.

Kalsec said its stance was consistent with consumer views expressed in a national opinion survey of 1,019 men and women conducted for the Consumer Federation of America by the Opinion Research Corporation in early September. When asked whether the practice of treating red meat with carbon monoxide is deceptive or not, 78% of consumers said it was, and 68% said they would strongly support a law to make it mandatory that meat treated with carbon monoxide be labelled.

"Despite Kalsec's Citizen Petition urging FDA to put an immediate stop to the unlawful use of carbon monoxide in fresh meat, continuing agency inaction means that carbon monoxide-treated meat still is being sold to consumers under conditions that can mask spoilage," said Kalsec's chief scientist Don Berdahl. "Since the product labelling does not tell consumers whether the red appearance of the meat results from the use of carbon monoxide, consumers may be purchasing such meat unknowingly.

"The FDA and USDA each have the authority and information necessary to put a stop to this practice now. The Kalsec petition has been pending for more than 12 months. If the federal agencies fail to act, the new Congress should step in and exercise its oversight authority on behalf of consumers."

Berdahl's comments came after Kalsec had filed its fourth submission in just over a year with the FDA and the USDA, asking the agencies to use their authority to ban the practice.

In its filing, Kalsec refuted claims in defence of the practice, saying that they fail to cite supportive laws or objective, peer-reviewed science. "The evidence is overwhelming," Berdahl said. "We believe that treating meat with carbon monoxide is deceptive and potentially unsafe. There is no reason in the world why the government should allow this practice to go on one more day."