Processing Magazine

Target Says Label for Meat Imminent

March 20, 2008
According to the Associated Press, a Target Corp. official told a congressional panel recently that Hormel Foods and Cargill are close to putting a label on meat to let consumers know when it''s been treated with a gas to make it look fresher.

Target divisional merchandise manager Danielle Lachman said that federal officials have approved language that Hormel and Cargill will use on the packaging. The label will say "Color is not an accurate indicator of freshness. Refer to use or freeze by" date, Lachman told members of a House Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee looking into food safety.

The label will go into use as soon as this month, Lachman said.

Hormel Foods Corp. and Cargill Inc. use carbon monoxide technology in a joint venture called Precept Foods to help meat retain its red color.

Last fall, Target, Cargill and Hormel -- all based in Minnesota -- appeared before the same subcommittee. The panel''s chairman, Bart Stupak, D-Mich., opposes the carbon monoxide treatment, arguing its sole purpose is to fool consumers about the freshness of the product.

At that earlier hearing, Target said it was working to add the labels, and Hormel and Cargill said they''d be willing to add labels if necessary.

Lachman said that Precept officials told Target that the Department of Agriculture''s Food Safety Inspection Service had approved language for the label; Cargill and Hormel confirmed that account. FSIS officials had no immediate comment on the approval.

The meat industry for years has typically used carbon monoxide in packages to help meat retain its red color. Although federal officials approved the practice, consumer advocates say it makes meat look fresh long after its expiration date.

Last year, several supermarket chains agreed to stop selling meats packaged in carbon monoxide after the House panel wrote letters expressing concern and seeking information.