Carbon monoxide is now being used in some packaging systems in the US, mainly with fresh meat products such as beef, pork, and fish to keep them looking fresh. The carbon monoxide combines with myoglobin to form carboxymyoglobin, a bright-cherry-red pigment.
For the moment, lets forget that carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas. And let’s also ignore the fact that pumping a small amount of carbon monoxide into a package of meat is supposedly safe.
Now why in the world (you might ask) would anyone even THINK of adding carbon monoxide to a package of, say, ground beef? Simple: When carbon monoxide interacts with meat pigments, the pigments do something interesting – they stay nice and red much longer.
Carboxymyoglobin is more stable than the oxygenated form of myoglobin, oxymyoglobin, which can become oxidized to the brown pigment. This stable red color can persist much longer than in normally packaged meat. This means, adding carbon monoxide to meat is a really bad idea. When meat stays red, consumers can be fooled into thinking old meat is fresh.
Most meat eaters are unaware that more than 70% of all beef and chicken in the United States, Canada and other countries is being treated with poisonous carbon monoxide gas. The process is banned in many other countries, including Canada, Japan, Singapore, and the European Union.