New botulinum guidance could hit cured meat shelf-life

By Rick Pendrous contact

- Last updated on GMT

Raw cured bacon is one of the foods that could be affected by the guidance
Raw cured bacon is one of the foods that could be affected by the guidance

Related tags: Clostridium botulinum

Cured meat manufacturers are worried that revised guidance for manufacturers from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on controlling the dangerous bacterium Clostridium botulinum in their products could result in dramatically reduced shelf-life.

Members of bodies such as the Provision Trade Federation (PTF) and British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) believed the revised guidance was “extremely precautionary​” in its approach.

The PTF and BMPA suggested the guidance put a greater emphasis on challenge testing but without providing details of any protocol for this testing.

‘Considerable concern’

Both bodies have expressed “considerable concern”​ that the revised guidance would lead to enforcement officers requiring manufacturers to apply the 10-day shelf-life rule for relevant products without evidence to fulfil the FSA guidance requirements.

This was a particular problem for raw cured meats – including bacon – where, in the worst case, the current shelf-life of products might have to be reduced by 75% and more, the PTF warned.

The revised guidelines are expected to be published in their final form next month (January 2018), following the publication of draft guidance by the FSA on vacuum and modified atmosphere packed meats in June 2017.

Use of the preservative nitrite

As a consequence, PTF and BMPA have been jointly taking forward studies on cured meat and the use of the preservative nitrite, together with other research organisations.

This work has focused on challenge testing of cured meats in order to provide evidence that existing controls satisfied the requirements of the FSA guidance.

Non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum​ is an anaerobic, spore-forming bacterium with the ability to produce the neurotoxin botulinum. The botulinum toxin can cause severe illness in humans and can be lethal.

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