Shelf-life guidance comes under fire

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

The FSA's guidance on the shelf-life of meat products has been questioned by BMPA and MLA research
The FSA's guidance on the shelf-life of meat products has been questioned by BMPA and MLA research

Related tags Beef Lamb Packaging equipment & materials Pork Processing and packaging Innovation

Research into the shelf-life of meat products has found that the ’10-day rule’ may no longer be appropriate for the industry.

Conducted by the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), the research found that the shelf-life of products could be extended beyond the recommended 10 days, as per the Food Standards Authority’s 2017 guidance on vacuum and modified atmosphere packed fresh meat.

In the study, it was found that there was no evidence that currently-applied UK shelf lives combined with current production standards were unsafe, and that the estimated level of protection and the results from the challenge test experiment both supported a shelf-life of greater than 10 days for fresh chilled beef, lamb and pork held at 3°C to 8°C.

The findings are expected to have “significant economic/social/sustainability benefits to producers/processors/retailers”​, while there may also be environmental/consumer benefits through lower wastage.

According to the BMPA, “the rigid application of the rule disadvantages UK meat companies, which often either miss out on export orders or are forced to sell product at a lower price than their overseas competitors because the shorter shelf-life allows buyers to negotiate the price down”​.

BMPA technical operations director David Lindars, who co-ordinated the research project said: “The shelf-life of fresh red meat held at 3°C to 8°C is of great significance to industry. These new scientific findings will give meat processors the ammunition they need to apply longer retail shelf-lives to their products.”

He added: “It is not just the commercial benefit to producers, processors and retailers that will result from these findings. Longer shelf-life of products will also benefit consumers and the environment through lower wastage and better sustainability. It’s a significant piece of research which will bring significant benefits to everyone involved in the production, selling and consumption of British meat products.”

In response to the BMPA/MLA research, an FSA spokesperson said: “The FSA guidance was developed using robust scientific evidence, drawing on the expertise of the independent Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF). 

“The ACMSF recommended a maximum ten-day shelf-life for vacuum and modified atmosphere packed foods stored from 3°C to 8°C in the absence of other controlling factors.

“However, where such controlling factors are present and where food businesses can satisfactorily demonstrate the safety of their product throughout its shelf-life, then longer than ten days may be applied. 

“When relevant new science is generated it is standard practice to revisit the evidence base and we will now consider the findings of this report.”

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