Public Analyst Scientific Services (PASS) found that, in some cases, cooking instructions associated with ready meals and other foods submitted to them were failing even basic safety standards.
If left unchecked, this would lead to meals that were unfit for consumption, and potentially unsafe, it warned.
“Manufacturers use our validation service to ensure their products comply with all relevant legislation and can be served safely if the cooking instructions are followed,” Liz Moran, head of scientific services at PASS told Food Manufacture.
“But we are seeing some instructions come to us that are either incorrect, or have even just been downloaded off the internet rather than being specifically written for the product we are testing.”
Moran said PASS used submitted instructions to conduct four test cooks to ensure harmful bacteria were killed and the product was safe.
But she explained analysts were now having to complete the process a number of times to even get close to a useable sample, before they went on to undertake the test cooks.
Using commercial ovens – as opposed to domestic appliances – might not be the most appropriate way of formulating instructions, Moran warned.
Driving up food safety
“We can help companies that may not have calibrated appliances themselves to ensure their instructions are correct,” she advised. “This not only drives up food safety but, when a food is correctly cooked and meets the required sensory attributes, it is more likely consumers will want to buy that particular product again.”
Moran said that, as a result of its findings, PASS was focusing efforts on working with manufacturers to develop and then verify their cooking instructions in a bid to aid them at the very beginning of the production process.
“We believe the answer is for manufacturers to be given as much information about how to correctly write instructions – and for them to better understand why this is so vital.”
The organisation has also introduced a cooking validation ‘ring trial’ that enables laboratories across the country to demonstrate their competence and compare their performance with other labs.