USDA choice meat label
We Finally Recognized What That Absorbent Pad In Meat Packages Is
By Elias Nash
You've most likely come across the absorbent pad that rests beneath every piece of pre-packaged meat, but you might not have known that it exists for your safety.
Raw meat releases a lot of liquid (a mixture of water and myoglobin) that can harbor potentially dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, Yersinia, and E. coli.
The absorbent pad in each package of meat can hold up to 40 grams of liquid, trapping it between its layers and keeping it from contaminating other things.
The pad also serves a cosmetic purpose to keep the meat from swimming in stagnant juices. Most of the absorbent pads used in meat packaging are made from silica gel or cellulose.
Silica is typically found in a packet with "DO NOT EAT" printed across it and can absorb moisture to keep humidity in packaging low, preventing spoilage and moisture damage.
Cellulose is a fiber found in plant cells and can be made into highly porous beads, like silica gel, for absorptive purposes.
There are tight regulations under the FDA regarding which materials can be used for the pads to ensure that none have the potential to leach harmful chemicals into the meat.
If you accidentally drop the pad into your pot or pan, silica or cellulose won't leach into your food, but quickly remove it, as it could become dangerous if it melts.
According to the USDA, as long as the absorbent pad stays intact under heat, neither its exterior nor interior contents should cause you any harm.