FSA scraps ten-day meat product shelf life date guidance

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Use by dates for meat can be longer than ten days under new FSA guidelines
Use by dates for meat can be longer than ten days under new FSA guidelines

Related tags: Food safety, Meat & Seafood

Meat processors have more freedom to set their own shelf life for vacuum- or modified-atmosphere-packed (VP/MAP) fresh beef, lamb and pork products, according to updated Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidelines.

The new rules scrap the existing arbitrary ‘one-size-fits-all’ ten-day shelf life. That allows manufacturers to base shelf-life on existing in-house food safety management systems used for other types of food – provided supporting evidence is submitted to the FSA.

For businesses that lack in-house expertise, the default shelf life for VP/MAP beef, lamb and pork products has been extended to 13 days following a report from FSA sub-group the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food.

The Chilled Food Association, which worked extensively with other partners on the Sustainable Shelf Life Extension project, has produced chilled food shelf life guidance in respect to risks posed by non-proteolytic Clostridium Botulinum​, here​. ​Specific advice for raw meat products can be found here​.

Wasted meat

The FSA hopes the updated guidance will prevent perfectly good fresh meat from being thrown away by consumers. The Waste and Resources Action Programme estimated more than 200,000 tonnes of meat is wasted every year, often in unopened packs.

In August, the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) announced it was working with the FSA to review of guidelines for red meat use by dates from the current ten-day maximum to 21 days or more.

Commenting on the updated shelf life rules, BMPA technical operations director David Linders said: “I welcome this decision, which represents modern evidence-based regulation, and has been reached thanks to excellent joined-up working between industry and regulator.

No compromise to food safety

“We are confident that this is a proportionate outcome that will benefit consumers and food businesses and help reduce food waste, whilst not compromising food safety.”

The review applies only to VP/MAP chilled fresh beef, lamb and pork without added ingredients or further processing beyond cutting, packing, chilling, freezing and quick-freezing.

It does not apply to any beef, lamb or pork that is subject to further processing such as mincing, cooking or mixing with any other ingredients such as herbs, spices or curing salts. The relevant sections of the FSA best practice guidance continues to apply to these and all other VP/MAP chilled foods.

Meanwhile, Welsh Lamb shelf-life has been ‘significantly extended’ on average,​ boosting long-term competitiveness, Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) – Meat Promotion Wales has announced.

Related topics: Food Safety, Meat, poultry & seafood

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