FSA updates guidance on shelf life for meat

FSA updates guidance on shelf life for meat

Following a recent consultation, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has updated its guidance on the shelf life for vacuum and modified atmosphere packed (VP/MAP) chilled fresh beef, lamb and pork.

From now on, food business operators (FBOs) can choose a safe shelf-life for these specific products in line with their existing food safety management systems, in the same way they already do for other types of food.

The decision has been taken based on a combination of evidence that includes expert microbiological advice, epidemiological information on the occurrence of botulism, and international data over many years on meat products. Implemented correctly, the FSA claims that these new guidelines will have no negative impact on 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.”

Last month, a public consultation into options to change the previous ten day maximum shelf-life best practice guidance for these products concluded.

Rebecca Sudworth, FSA director of policy, said: “We can announce that our best practice guidance on the safety and shelf-life of VP/MAP chilled beef, lamb and pork is changing. 

“The UK has a robust legal framework, and the food industry is responsible for ensuring food placed on the market is safe. Food businesses will be able to follow existing industry guidance to ensure that an appropriate shelf-life is applied to these products, while support will be provided to smaller businesses who may not have this capability by setting a modified 13-day limit.

“We are confident that food businesses throughout the UK will continue to put standards and safety at the heart of everything they do, so consumers can be confident their interests come first.”

Industry representatives on a joint FSA and industry working group, which has discussed the guidance over the past six months as part of the review process, welcomed the FSA’s decision.

David Lindars, co-chair of the working group and technical operations director of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), 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.

“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.”

National Craft Butchers (NCB) technical manager, Richard Stevenson, said: “First and foremost this is a great day for Craft Butchers and the whole industry. However, we should all remember that the measure should never have been adopted in the first place. A scientific study commissioned by BMPA and Meat and Livestock Australia (many congratulations to them) reported recently that fresh meat has the lowest spore loading of any food material or component. Frankly, the FSA should have already known this and on this occasion, they have done a great disservice to consumers by excessive use of the precautionary principle.”

John Mettrick, NCB director of legislation, added: “ Great news for butchers that common sense has prevailed in the end and the regulation is proportional and matches the science.”

This decision was reached in collaboration with Food Standards Scotland. The new guidance document will be available for reference on the FSA website from 14th December 2020 but is effective immediately.

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