Insufficient evidence for biltong guidance

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Campden bri, Food standards agency

Experts on the Food Standards Agency's (FSA's) Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) have decided not to issue guidance on the production and storage of biltong in the UK because too many uncertainties exist about controlling its safety.

ACMSF chair professor Sarah O'Brien said more information regarding food poisoning outbreaks associated with biltong was needed before guidance could be issued. "There is not sufficient evidence to provide guidance," she said.

Biltong is an uncooked meat product, which has been 'marinated' in an acidic liquid with salt and spice and then air-dried slowly at low temperatures over six days to reduce moisture content and water activity. It is widely eaten in South Africa and is increasingly consumed in the UK.

At its last meeting, the ACMSF received the results of a literature review carried out by researchers at Campden BRI on the microbiological hazards associated with biltong and similar dried meats, such as jerky.

Unlike jerky, which undergoes high temperature drying and is subject to stringent controls in countries such as the US where it is widely available, ACMSF members were concerned about various unknown risks associated with biltong production in the UK.

Presenting its results, Campden BRI's Dean Burfoot noted that jerky tended to undergo "much more severe processing than biltong". He suggested that in the UK climate, unheated ambient air would be unsuitable for production of biltong and forced convection drying would be necessary. Campden BRI microbiologist Linda Everis also reported on potential risks from dangerous pathogens if processing conditions were not very carefully controlled.

Related topics: Food Safety, Meat, poultry & seafood

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