A Food Standards Agency (FSA) botulism alert over chilled vacuum-packed meat comes a year after warnings that the packaging could increase the risk of the disease.
The FSA warned consumers not to eat 100g packs of smoked wild venison and smoked beef produced by Islay Fine Food Company, based on Scottish island Islay. Due to a processing fault involving "inadequate control measures", the meat could contain the toxin that causes botulism, a potentially fatal disease. "The results [of checks] showed that levels of water, salt and pH were not adequate to prevent growth of clostridium botulinum," said the FSA.
Though Islay Fine Food Company has voluntarily removed the product from sale, a few packs had already been sold.
A study by the Institute of Food Research last year pointed to the risk of botulism rising as more vacuum-packed and modified atmosphere packaged chilled foods were sold. Anaerobic conditions in the packs are said to be favourable to the growth of the toxin non-proteolytic clostridium botulinum.
There had been concerns that the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food would recommend a tightening of controls on the storage of these foods, but it recommended a 10-day shelf-life rather than the five days feared. This was partly due to the absence of botulism over the past 20 years from chilled food that had been stored properly.