Wausau News

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.

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