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You are here: Home >news >Tossed too soon? Campden BRI investigates red meat shelf life standards to cut waste

Tossed too soon? Campden BRI investigates red meat shelf life standards to cut waste

2021-03-01 foodingredientsfirst

Tag: waste Campden BRI Tossed


Industry standards for measuring red meat’s shelf life may need a revision, according to Campden BRI.

The food consulting and research organization is investigating how to updat standards for assessing shelf life to today’s production practices for red meats.

“Extending its shelf life by even a day or two could help offset its environmental impact quite considerably,” explains Campden BRI microbiologist Greg Jones, who is leading the project. 

“Red meat is known for being highly perishable. Yet it’s quite possible that current rejection thresholds for levels of microorganisms are set using standards that may not consider modern production methods.” 

The research team will be undertaking microbiological and sensory testing to see if it can set more realistic standards, making red meat more sustainable and potentially increasing shelf life without compromising product safety.

How meat is assessed
Currently, the majority of retailers apply microbiological specifications, as indicators of quality, to the raw red meat products (including beef and lamb) that they source from their suppliers. 

Feedback from producers suggests that these specifications’ upper limits may not reflect the increased maturation that red meats currently receive. 

Extending red meat’s shelf life by even a day or two could help offset its environmental impact.“The natural flora of red meat may already be at a higher level than that permitted by the specifications,” says Jones.

Limits can potentially be exceeded even at the very start of shelf life, despite the food being safe and organoleptically acceptable.

As a result, red meat that is still safe to eat may be getting tossed, leading to significant food waste and cost.

The cost of underestimating shelf life
The revised standards could save producers and retailers millions in wasted food. 

WRAP – circular economy and resource efficiency experts – currently estimates that more than 380,000 metric tons of meat, worth £3 billion (US$4.2 billion), is wasted in the UK each year from production through to the consumer – measuring more than four million metric tons in CO2 equivalents. 

“If the evidence justifies a review of these specifications, by correlating sensory data with plate counts, the benefits to producers and retailers will be considerable, allowing safe food to be stored for a longer time,” Jones affirms. 

“The climate impact of red meat is enormous. Wasting this product wastes the energy that went into its production.”

Involving industry 
The scientists are looking for raw red meat producers and retailers to work with them on the project so that they can undertake investigations and analyses on a comprehensive range of products.

The research will begin in April and run for a year. It will involve suppliers and retailers from across the red meat sector providing a range of products for testing. 

Advances in testing
Food safety is gaining speed with new technology. Last month, 3M Food Safety unveiled the 3M Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced.

The automated technology for food safety can rapidly and accurately visualize, count and document microbiological colonies, processing up to 900 plates per hour.

Last November, researchers at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) developed an artificial olfactory system that can detect spoilage in real time. 


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