Fresh red meat could be safe to eat for SEVEN weeks, which could lead to shake-up, study suggests





Fresh red meat could be safe to eat after 50 DAYS in the fridge: Beef, pork and lamb are edible for weeks as long as they are chilled below 46F (8C), study finds

  • New research shows botulism bacteria not present at toxic level for first 49 days
  • Study could revolutionise industry by changing sell-by dates and cutting waste
  • Food Standards Agency vows to examine report before any changes to rules

Red meat may be safe to eat up to seven weeks after it was produced, research suggests.

Currently, UK watchdogs advise that fresh, chilled meat should only be consumed up to ten days after processing.

The new study credits improved hygiene standards together with the development of vacuum packaging – however it is also important the meat is kept chilled to prevent bacteria growing.

New study suggests red meat may have a much longer shelf life than experts realise, which could potentially revolutionise the industry

New study suggests red meat may have a much longer shelf life than experts realise, which could potentially revolutionise the industry

If the research – conducted by the British Meat Producers Association (BMPA) and jointly overseen by Meat And Livestock Australia – is validated, it could revolutionise food sell-by date labels and cut waste.

The study could also mean thousands of tonnes of meat have been needlessly binned since the 10-day shelf life guidance was introduced in 1992 by the Advisory Committee for the Microbiological Safety of Foods. 

Tests showed beef does not become toxic with Clostridium botulinum – which causes botulism – until 50 days after first developing spores, so long as it is chilled at 8C (46F) or below. 

In comparison, it takes 35 days for lamb and 25 for pork at the same temperature.

A BMPA spokesman said the findings would give meat processors the ammunition they need to apply longer retail shelf-lives to products.

They added it will ‘benefit consumers and the environment through lower wastage and better sustainability’.

Botulism, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, causes an unpleasant poisoning with nerve paralysis and weakness

Botulism, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, causes an unpleasant poisoning with nerve paralysis and weakness

What is the 10-day shelf life rule for fresh meat? 

Food officials in the UK first announced the 10 day shelf life rule for certain chilled foods, such as beef, pork and lamb, in 1992.

The guidance applies to foods that are vacuum or ‘modified atmosphere’ packed – methods that allow no air into the food – and stored between 3C to 8C.

Clostridium botulinum – which causes botulism – is able to grow and produce a harmful toxin at temperatures of 3C and above.

The Food Standards Agency was keen to halve the time limit in 2005, cutting it down to just five days. However, it never went ahead.

The Chilled Foods Association, an industry body that represents many manufacturers, argued the five-day restriction was unnecessary.

BMPA’s David Lindars, who co-ordinated the research project, told FarmingUK: ‘The shelf life of fresh red meat held at 3C to 8C is of great significance to industry. 

‘New findings will give meat processors the ammunition they need to apply longer retail shelf lives to their products.

‘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.’ 

The UK’s ten-day shelf-life rule was officially set by the Food Standards Agency, with revised guidance issued in 2008 formed using ‘robust scientific evidence’.

A spokesman for the FSA 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 3C to 8C 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.’

Food officials in the UK first announced the 10 day shelf life rule for certain chilled foods, such as beef, pork and lamb, in 1992.

The guidance applies to foods that are vacuum or ‘modified atmosphere’ packed – methods that allow no air into the food – and stored between 3C to 8C.

Clostridium botulinum is able to grow and produce a harmful toxin at temperatures of 3C and above.

WHAT IS BOTULISM? 

Botulism, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, causes an unpleasant poisoning with nerve paralysis and weakness.

They can thrive in canned foods, deep wounds and the stomach.

Between 2000 and 2006, just six cases of food-borne botulism were reported in England.

Diarrhoea, vomiting, blurred vision, difficulty swallowing and a general all-over body weakness and paralysis.

These symptoms normally occur within a day but can be as late as a week after eating the food.

Antitoxins can slow down the process and allow recovery.

Most people make a complete recovery, although five per cent of cases are fatal.

The same toxin is used for cosmetic Botox procedures, to paralyse facial muscles and reduce wrinkles.





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