Carbon monoxide makes meat appear fresher than it really is by reacting with the meat pigment myoglobin to create carboxymyoglobin. This bright red pigment masks the natural telltale signs of spoiled meat such as rank odors and slime. Meats containing carboxymyoglobin will appear red and fresh for days or even weeks beyond the point of spoiling.
Ironically, while it has allowed the used of carbon monoxide packaging, the FDA has also warned of the significant safety concern accompanying the use of reduced oxygen packaging (such as carbon monoxide packaging) stating that “the inhibition of the spoilage bacteria is significant because without these competing organisms, tell-tale signs signaling that the product is no longer fit for consumption will not occur.”
Cooking meat cannot eliminate the health problems that could occur when toxins are present, but not readily apparent, because of carbon monoxide. Even when contaminated meats are properly cooked, some toxins can survive.
The FDA’s acceptance of the GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) notifications for the use of carbon monoxide in fresh meat is illegal because it ignores existing Federal statutes and regulations. Precisely because of the potential for carbon monoxide to mask the appearance of spoilage and promote consumer deception, FDA regulations (Section 173.350) expressly prohibit the use of carbon monoxide in “fresh meat products.”