Meat carcasses leaving the slaughterhouse could be transported at temperatures higher than the current regulations of 7°c, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
This would be possible if specific maximum transportation times are applied, and bacterial growth is controlled by efficient chilling during transportation, claims a report by EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards.
Dr Michaela Hempen, EFSA, told FoodQualityNews.com time and temperature were considered to draw up an alternative set of conditions.
Time and temperature
“Growth of bacteria depends on time and temperature,” she said. “You have to have chilling components to keep the growth down, and a maximum transport time.”
Meat must be chilled after an animal is slaughtered to prevent bacteria growth, and current regulations require meat to be at 7°c before it can be transported.
Regulations are currently based on the ‘core temperature’ – temperature at the deepest point of the carcass. But the panel believes surface temperature is more important.
“The panel suggests we change the core temperature to surface temperature, because contamination and bacteria growth is on the surface of meat,” Hempen said.
Request from European Commission
Current regulations state target temperatures should be achieved before transportation. However, the panel reports transportation can occur before the target temperature is reached, as long as the temperature continues to decrease during transportation.
Combinations of maximum surface temperature and maximum transportation times are provided by the panel. For example, beef carcasses could be chilled to a surface temperature of 5°c (taking 10 hours) and transported at 5°c for 45 hours.
Alternatively, carcass chilling could take place to a surface temperature at 8°c and transported at 7°c for one hour.
The European Commission requested the research, ‘Scientific Opinion on the public health risks related to the maintenance of the cold chain during storage and transport of meat,’ from the panel.
This first report considers meat of domestic ungulates (which includes cattle, sheep and pigs). A second report, looking at minced meat, will be published in July.