Chilled food firms are finally enjoying the victory they won in theory in June 2006 reversing Food Standards Agency (FSA) proposals that would have cut chilled food shelf-life from 10 to five days in many cases.
The FSA's advice would have hit manufacturers' sales and increased waste, as it would have halved the 10-day shelf-life rule for products where controls on non-proteolytic (psychotropic) Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism, were absent.
The Chilled Foods Association (CFA) led research groups in challenging the FSA's stance, which resulted in the lapse of the 10-day rule. As a consequence of the CFA's work, the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food put the matter to review, after which the FSA's position was rejected.
But it has taken a further 18 months for the 10-day rule to be officially re-instated. No firm shelf-life guidance has been available during this period and many processors have still been adhering to the FSA's original five day guidance.
The milestone was reached after the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the British Retail Consortium, Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association, the Institute of Food Research and packaging specialist Cryovac redrafted advice.
After further revision, the 10-day rule has been made official again. The latest industry guidance is to be published soon.
Meanwhile, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has agreed to fund a project to explore extending heat-treated chilled food shelf-life beyond 10 days.
The project is expected to have a three year duration.