Our SUSSLE projects (2008-2018) tackle microbiological issues limiting chilled shelf life.
The first peer-reviewed paper arising from the SUSSLE projects was published in January 2016: Quantification of non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum spore loads in food materials, Barker G. C., Malakar P. K., Plowman J., Peck M. W. Applied and Environmental Microbiology doi: 10.1128/AEM.03630-15.
We were successful in 2007 in re-securing the 10 day rule for the shelf life of chilled vacuum packaged/modified atmosphere packaged products (foods stored at 3–8oC) after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) proposed guidance to restrict the shelf-life of chilled vacuum packaged/modified atmosphere packaged products (foods stored at 3–8oC) from 10 to 5 days.
This would have had a detrimental effect on chilled foods making the production and distribution of most chilled foods impractical. We are also argued that the 5 day restriction was unnecessary as the 10 day rule was effective in assuring the safety of chilled prepared foods. We were were instrumental in drawing together various industry and research parties, resulting in FSA’s draft guidance being roundly criticised for lacking scientific basis, with the result that ACMSF (Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food) put the matter to independent review.
This review was carried out in 2006 and the report presented to ACMSF by the Institute of Food Research (IFR) on 8 June 2006 where the ACMSF concurred with its conclusions, rejecting the scientific basis of the proposed 5 day limitation. The ACMSF also noted that the 10-day shelf life recommendation for the UK was already quite restrictive and was not applied in many other countries. In particular, they welcomed the epidemiological evidence included in the review which showed that, over the last 20 years, there were no reported cases of botulism linked to properly stored chilled prepared foods. The ACMSF also recommended that the guidance should be brought to the attention of other Member States via the European Commission.
The review concluded that there was no evidence to require moving from the previous ’10-day rule’ and that it should be reflected in the guidance. A small drafting group was set up to redraft the guidance on this basis, with CFA’s Director being invited to participate along with representatives of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, British Retail Consortium, Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association (now Campden BRI), the Institute of Food Research, and Cryovac.
The redrafted guidance which was further revised after consultation during the summer of 2007, was supported by ACMSF at its December 2007 meeting, reinstating the ‘10-day rule‘.
It was published by the FSA as ‘Guidance on the Safety and Shelf-life of Vacuum and Modified Atmosphere Packed Chilled Foods with Respect to Non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum‘ in July 2008.
A revised edition was published by FSA in January 2017, not having undergone scrutiny by either an expert group nor ACMSF prior to publication. Further information.
In July 2018, a consortium of UK food industry (CFA and BRC) and UK and Australian research organisations (Leatherhead Food Research, Meat & Livestock Australia and Quadram Institute Bioscience) issued Guidelines for Setting Shelf Life of Chilled Foods in Relation to Non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum, designed to ensure that sufficient information is provided by FBOs and laboratories to arrive at valid decisions regarding the shelf life of chilled foods in relation to non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum. The Guidelines are intended to also support FBOs when challenged by Competent Authorities.