'Early Show' Scares Viewers about Packaged Meat

     When was the last time you saw two-year-old meat in your grocer’s fridge?      

     CBS “Early Show” correspondent Chip Reid used hamburger meat dated Nov. 26, 2005, to suggest consumers could be hoodwinked by meat packagers that use carbon monoxide in what is known as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP-CO).

     “This meat is almost two years old, and it’s still red,” Reid said on the November 13 show.

     It wasn’t clear where Reid obtained two-year-old hamburger meat, and he didn’t bother to consider whether that was an abnormal situation. He also didn’t explain that the use of carbon monoxide in packaging has health benefits.

     According to Dr. Ruth Kava, director of nutrition for the American Council on Science & Health, the use of small amounts carbon monoxide in meat packaging offers at least one benefit.

     “I believe that for bacteria – that need oxygen to grow – I think it would retard their growth,” Kava told the Business & Media Institute on November 13. “So, that’s a positive and I don’t know of any real negatives.”

      Reid admitted the chemical itself in such a tiny quantity is harmless, but he did trot out one critic who said the process “still puts consumers at risk.”

     “So when consumers are in the supermarket, they can’t tell the difference between a fresh piece of meat and a piece of meat that’s been sitting on the shelf for several weeks,” claimed Chris Waldrop of the Consumer Federation of America, a group that lobbies against businesses, is against gun ownership and is for increased regulation.

     The story led up to a push for additional labeling of meat products supervised by the government. But Kava said it’s ultimately up to consumers to look at dates and determine how fresh the product is.

     “Everything has a, you know, a ‘Use by’ or a ‘Sell by’ date on it and if people pay attention to that, they know how fresh the product is,” Kava added. “That’s what I always look at when I go to the store.”

     “The Early Show” included only a statement from the American Meat Institute Foundation, but did not include anyone on-air to defend the meat packaging industry.