New guidance aims to reduce RTE meat contamination

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Foodborne illness, Food, Nutrition, Fsis

The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued draft guidelines to help small ready-to-eat meat manufacturers reduce the risk of harmful bacteria in their products, following related recalls last year.

The US Department of Agriculture’s FSIS said it developed the new guidelines with a special focus on the causes of several illness-related meat and poultry product recalls in 2010. One high-profile case involved salmonella-tainted salami recalled by Rhode Island-based Daniele International last January, the cause of which was traced to spices applied to the meat after processing. And a recall of Basic Food Flavors’ hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) found to be contaminated with salmonella was considered to pose a particular risk for ready-to-eat meat snack products.

The FSIS said its new compliance document contains guidelines on how to avoid foodborne pathogen contamination when ingredients are introduced following processing – such as adding spices or sauces after curing or cooking. The problem with such ingredients is that potentially there is no further kill step (cooking, for example) performed by either the manufacturer or the consumer to destroy harmful bacteria.

FSIS administrator Al Almanza said: "The prevention of foodborne illness is our top priority. These guidelines spell out FSIS’ recommended best practices when it comes to producing food items that consumers usually do not cook before eating. Our goal is to help industry apply some of the recent lessons we have learned so they can prevent future problems, resulting in safer ready-to-eat food for consumers."

The agency added that the guidelines do not represent new regulatory requirements for meat and poultry product manufacturers, but are intended to help small businesses comply with existing regulation. The document includes a section on ‘lessons learned’ from previous salmonella outbreaks in ready-to-eat products, as well as an outline of processes that can help cut the risk of contamination.

The guidance document is online here​ and is open for comments from industry for 60 days.

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