From: Reuters
Published November 13, 2007 02:52 PM

Target seeks to add warning to treated meat

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Discount retailer Target Corp is requesting U.S. government approval to add a warning to the labels of meat sold in its stores that have been treated with carbon monoxide to keep the product looking fresh.

"Because certain modified atmosphere packaging preserves the color of meat, Target is working to add labels to those products that encourage guests not to rely on color or the 'use or freeze by' date alone to judge the freshness of the product," Target said in a statement.

Target sent the request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service requires a use-by/sell-by date on meats sold in packages containing carbon monoxide to ensure the shelf life of the product ends before spoilage occurs, according to agency officials.

"We received the letter Friday evening and will consider the request for approval as the FSIS does for all label requests," USDA spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said, referring to the Target letter.

Meat packers sometimes add carbon monoxide to sealed packages to preserve the bright red color of fresh meat but some lawmakers have tried to ban the practice, saying it is unsafe.

They have also pushed for a campaign that would inform consumers of the packaging practice and caution them against relying on color rather than a sell-by date when buying meat.

Target sells packaged meat in 210 of its stores. It operated 1,591 Target stores in 47 states as of November 8.

Target must obtain FSIS approval to add a label about carbon monoxide treatment because the agency is responsible for overseeing the safety of meat, poultry and eggs and labels on those foods.

Legislation pending in the House of Representatives would require meat packages to list carbon monoxide as a color additive and to display a "safety notice" against using color or the use-by date alone to judge meat safety.

(Reporting by Justin Grant and Nicole Maestri, Editing by Mark Porter/Andre Grenon)

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