A few weeks ago, after the long awaited grand opening of our new Harris Teeter supermarket, I decided to drop by after Terra’s obedience class. It was past dinner time, I was hungry, and parking was at a premium.
Very nice, I thought, as I strolled the aisles. Yep, everything is here: gorgeous looking produce, 20,000 cereal boxes, and a very attractive deli counter. Perfect, I thought, I’ll just grab some sushi, buy a few apples, and go home to eat.
The sushi looked divine. I picked up the first package and noticed an oversized label. WTF – “carbon monoxide added to retain flavor?” (Question mark, mine). I re-read the label 3 times – “carbon monoxide added to retain flavor,” not to mention all the other chemicals on the label. I picked up a few other varieties, and there in bold print – “carbon monoxide added to retain flavor.”
I politely (as least I thought I was) spoke to the help behind the counter: “Excuse me, am I reading this right? You put carbon monoxide in the sushi?” One would have thought I had the plague, the way everyone stepped back about three feet. They looked at me, looked at each other, and kind of shrugged their shoulders. No one said a word. “Really?” I asked. “Carbon Monoxide?” At that point, others around the deli counter seemed to be gathering and waiting for an answer. I started to feel a little embarrassed for the counter help. Surely they were excited to have a new job at the new Harris Teeter. I was not trying to create a scene, but the sushi a la carbon monoxide really got the better of me. At last, someone spoke up: “Yes, it’s to retain color, and it’s approved by the FDA.”
Oh yeah, that made me feel better. Japan, Canada and the countries of the European Union have banned the practice because of fears that it could be used to mask spoiled fish.
I moved on to buy some organic apples, and despite the fact that our region is the 3rd or 4th largest apple producer in the country- no local organic apples. I will admit, I don’t always eat organic, but I do like my apples to be just that.
Once home, I just had to Google the use of carbon monoxide in fish, and I learned that not only are fish brokers, supermarkets and restaurants using carbon monoxide for fish, but it’s being used on beef, too, to keep that raw red color.
For all you sushi eaters out there, Whole Foods and our local Earth Fare stores do not use carbon monoxide to retain color.
Here are some useful links: