Beware: The Meat and Seafood’s Healthy Glow May Be Artificial

Despite media exposes and a public backlash, a lot of meat today continues to be treated with gasses to keep it looking red. Like mercury in tuna, just because the risks are exposed and the public is outraged doesn’t mean the producers change anything. They know the furor will die down and the public will forget.

Treating meat with carbon monoxide keeps its oxymyoglobin, what makes it red, from turning brown or gray. In defending the use of gasses to keep meat looking fresh, the meat industry says that meat turning brown is no different than apples turning brown when exposed to the air–a harmless discoloration that does not affect wholesomeness. Right. But the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food have voiced concerns about meat food appearing fresher than it is because of the artificial hues.

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Another method the meat industry uses to keep food looking fresh is curing it with nitrites and nitrates. Most processed meat from bacon, Slim Jims and lunch meat to canned hams, is made with the chemicals which give it color, flavor, a long shelf life and protection against bacterial growth. The problem is nitrite and nitrate have strong links to cancer and the American Cancer Society discourages their consumption. Eating just one hot dog a day increased the risk of developing colorectal cancer by as much as 21 percent in a 2008 report from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. Nitrite and nitrate, which become nitrosamines in the body, are linked to colorectal cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and