Imagine this: you buy a piece of meat from your local butcher, take it home, and make a meal with your family with some of it, leaving the left out for a meal tomorrow. Later that night, you notice a soft blue glow emitting from the kitchen. When you go to investigate, you find that it is none other than the leftover raw meat glowing!
Is this something out of a science fiction movie about mutant meat? Not quite. This anecdote and photos of the glowing meat have been circulating on the Internet recently. The meat in question was bought from a wet market in Shanghai. It sounds like no one became ill from eating the meat, but the family did not consume any more of it when they discovered it was glowing.
Pseudomonas phosphorescens are light-emitting organisms that naturally occur in a variety of environments but are best known for living in seawater. The salty, cold conditions they enjoy make them problematic in chilling rooms and meat refrigerators.
Photoluminescence is a process in which a substance absorbs electromagnetic radiation (photons) and re-radiates them. The emission of light is the result of atoms excited by an energy source other than heat.
Phosphorescence is a kind of photoluminescence in which the material that absorbed radiation does not immediately re-radiate. When it does, it radiates at a lower intensity than the light that was originally absorbed. This is the same thing that happens with glow-in-the-dark materials (remember glow worms?).
Pseudomonas (literally, false unit) is a genus of bacteria pathogenic to animals and plants containing approximately 455 species.
Cyanogen is a species of within the genus pseudomonas capable of producing cyanide, an extremely poisonous flammable gas. The root of the word cyanide is from cyan, blue, because it was originally obtained from the pigment dye Prussian blue.
A separate and well-documented incident of blue glowing pork took place in Changsha, central China, in February 2010. Residents reported a blue glow from pork bought from several sources throughout the city including wet markets and supermarkets. The glowing residue would transfer onto hands and surfaces that had contact with the contaminated meat. City authorities investigated and reassured residents that the meat was safe to eat but were met with some skepticism.