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The maintenance of the cold chain is one of the basic tenets of food hygiene. From raw ingredients through to finished products, foods should not be kept at temperatures that facilitate the growth of pathogenic microorganisms and so pose a risk to public health. In Europe, legislation lays down specific requirements for the storage and transport of meat regarding temperatures and maximum times of storage.

F

ollowing a request from the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority Panel on Biological Hazards was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on whether or not it was possible to apply alternative core temperatures (higher than the current requirement of 7°C in Regulation 853/2004) in combination with specific transport durations for meat (carcasses) of domestic ungulates after slaughter without increasing the risk associated with the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. It was also requested that the panel recommend, if appropriate, combinations of maximum core temperatures for the loading of carcasses and maximum transport times. To fulfil this mandate, the first stage was to establish the key parameters that affect bacterial growth on beef, pork and lamb carcasses and to identify the key pathogens that should be included in any consideration of the effect of chilling temperature on microbial growth. From the scientific literature it was established that the key determinants of growth on meat

were temperature, pH and aw, although other factors such as competition from other microorganisms might also be a factor. As viruses and parasites do not grow on meat, the most relevant pathogens are bacterial. Salmonella spp. and verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) were identified as the most appropriate target organisms based on their ‘high’ priority ranking in the recently published EFSA opinions on meat inspection. L. monocytogenes and Y. enterocolitica were also included because of their ability to grow at chill temperatures. Current legislation, Regulation EC 853/2004, requires that carcasses be immediately chilled after post-mortem inspection to ensure a temperature throughout of not more than 7°C in the case of meat and not more than 3°C for offal. In practice, therefore, the temperature in the deepest carcass tissue (core temperature) must achieve a minimum of 7°C. It is unclear as to why this target temperature was selected as pathogens such as L. monocytogenes and Y. enterocolitica will grow at 7°C. The absence of a time limit by which the 7°C core

www.foodprocessing.com.au

May/June 2014

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MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD

Europe looks at meat transportation, storage and the cold chain

What’s New in Food Technology May/Jun 2014  

The most comprehensive coverage of new products and technology developments from companies supplying and servicing the food and beverage ind...

What’s New in Food Technology May/Jun 2014  

The most comprehensive coverage of new products and technology developments from companies supplying and servicing the food and beverage ind...