The Food Standards Agency (FSA), responsible for food safety and food hygiene in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, has revised its 10-day use-by rule for vacuum and modified atmosphere packed chilled fresh beef, lamb, and pork, hoping to benefit both consumer and industry interest.
The updated rules now allow food business operators to choose a safe shelf life for these specific products in line with their existing food safety management systems, managing them the same way they do other types of foods. Therefore, under the new guidance, food manufacturers can apply a shelf life of a maximum 13-days.
Rebecca Sudworth, FSA’s director of policy, notes that moving away from a “one size fits all” mentality will better ensure high food safety standards and reduce unnecessary food waste. “The U.K. has a robust legal framework and the food industry is responsible for ensuring food placed on the market is safe,” she says. “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.”
A number of industry representatives teamed with FSA over the past six months in discussing possible changes and pushed for the updated terms. During the meetings, those involved considered expert microbiological advice, epidemiological information on the occurrence of botulism, and international data conducted on meat products for the past decade.
“I welcome this decision, which represents modern evidence-based regulation, and has been reached thanks to excellent joined up working between industry and regulator,” says David Lindars, technical operations director of the British Meat Processors Association. “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.”
If implemented correctly, these new guidelines should have no negative impact on food safety. “We are confident that food businesses throughout the U.K. will continue to put standards and safety at the heart of everything they do, so consumers can be confident their interests come first,” Sudworth says.