CFA welcomes fresh meat removal from FSA Vac Pack/MAP Guidance

CFA welcomes FSA’s revised approach to shelf-life guidance for chilled fresh vacuum packed/MAP beef, lamb and pork, which removes the 10 day limit imposed on these foods in its 2017 guidance.

As set out already in food law, the change means that from now on, food business operators (FBOs) can set a shelf life for fresh beef, pork and lamb in line with their existing food safety management systems, in the same way they already do for other types of food, and did for these fresh meats previous to the 2017 guidance.

FSA’s decision reflects decades of international evidence of safety of low oxygen packed fresh beef, pork and lamb, and a Quantitative Microbiological Risk Assessment carried out in CFA’s first SUSSLE (Sustainable Shelf Life Extension) project published in Applied Environmental Microbiology in January 2016 (Barker et al).

That work showed that fresh meat has the lowest prevalence and loading with spores of non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum of any food material.

Risk assessments show exceptionally high levels of safety protection from standard legally required hygiene measures from the abattoir on. These assessments most notably include those commissioned by FSA (project B13006) published in 2006 and as a peer reviewed paper in 2008, and by Meat &  Livestock Australia/BMPA published in 2019, and as a peer reviewed paper in 2020.

Industry is referred to CFA/QIB/LFR/MLA/BRC 2018 guidance on Setting Shelf Life of Chilled Foods in Relation to Non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum, and BRCGS guidance (2018) in relation to fresh meat as the standard approach to taken and BRCGS guidance (2018) in relation to fresh meat as the standard approach to taken.

These neither specify shelf life limits, nor any requirement for challenge testing.

FSA recognises that small and medium sized food businesses may not have suitable resources or expertise. Such businesses will be able to use the January 2020 ACMSF recommendation for VP/MAP chilled fresh beef, lamb and pork, should they wish to do so, i.e. a shelf-life of 13 days maximum without further activity to demonstrate the safety in relation to C. botulinum.

CFA’s DG Karin Goodburn MBE said: “It is very welcome that FSA has removed fresh meat from the scope of its guidance. Both non-statutory guidance and legislation must have a sound scientific basis and be shown to be addressing risk proportionately. We are delighted that our previous research (SUSSLE) and guidance work is seen as setting out the appropriate future approach – it is already the bedrock of standard longstanding industry practice. We look forward to contributing to the next phase of the review of FSA’s VP/MAP guidance,  which remains unique internationally.”

10 December 2020