Research suggests red meat shelf-life can be safely extended

A joint scientific study between the British Meat Processors Association and Meat and Livestock Australia has proven that the current recommended 10-day shelf life for chilled red meat can be safely extended well beyond the current FSA guidance.

The Guardian reported that according to 2008 guidance from the FSA, clarified in 2017, the shelf life of either vacuum- or gas-packaged fresh meat kept at 3-8C should be limited to 10 days unless suitable grounds for a longer shelf life can be identified, such as high salt content or low pH.

The industry experts behind the study are contesting the guidelines, calling for a return to the previous situation in which manufacturers and retailers determined use-by dates, a shift that could see the shelf life of packaged and chilled red meat extended to three weeks or more.

The study sought to replicate the conditions and temperature that meat is likely to be stored at in a domestic refrigerator. If the findings are implemented, it could play a role in tackling the problem of consumers currently throwing away £3bn worth of food every year.

For British meat processors, it could remove a technical barrier to trade because the UK is currently the only country that has and enforces a 10-day rule. The rule has disadvantaged UK meat companies who 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’s Technical Operations Director, David Lindars, commented: “We hope that the FSA’s final report will conclude that the risk assessment and the setting of shelf life will return to the food business operators as was always the case for the last thirty plus years . There is already sufficient legislation in place that covers the food safety of products sold to the final consumer – 1990 Food Safety Act is one of many.

“The shelf life of fresh red meat held at 3°C to 8°C is of great significance to industry. We hope that these new scientific findings will give FSA the evidence they need to remove red meat from the guidance so that processors and retailers can apply longer retail shelf lives to their products”.

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