Is new FSA shelf-life guidance an opportunity for smart labels?

Is new FSA shelf-life guidance an opportunity for smart labels?

Shelf-life guidance for vacuum and modified atmosphere packed (VP/MAP) chilled fresh beef, lamb and pork has been updated by the FSA. According to a spokesman for AIPIA this could be a real opportunity to roll out more smart condition monitoring labels for the proteins packaging market. The new guidance document will be available for reference on the FSA website from Monday 14 December 2020, but is effective immediately.

From now on, food business operators (FBOs) can choose a safe shelf-life for these specific products in line with their existing food safety management systems. Moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach will benefit both consumers and industry and will continue to ensure high food safety standards and unnecessary food waste is reduced. The decision has been taken based on a combination of evidence that includes expert microbiological advice, epidemiological information on the occurrence of botulism, and international data over many years on meat products.

Commenting, a AIPIA spokesperson said, “This is a real opportunity for retailers and fresh meat producers and packers to consider using condition monitoring labels to give consumers a real, evidence based, method of knowing their meat is safe and fit for consumption.”

Last month, a public consultation into options to change the previous 10-day maximum shelf-life best practice guidance for these products concluded. Rebecca Sudworth, FSA director of policy, explained, “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.

“We are confident that food businesses in the UK will continue to put standards and safety at the heart of everything they do, so consumers can be confident their interests come first” she added.

Industry representatives on a joint FSA and industry working group welcomed the FSA’s decision. David Lindars, co-chair of the working group and technical operations director of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), said, “I welcome this decision, which represents modern evidence-based regulation, and has been reached thanks to excellent joined up working between industry and regulator. 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.”

While larger businesses are expected to be able to put into practice their own guidance immediately for these products, the FSA recognizes that small and medium-sized food businesses may not have the suitable resources or expertise. Therefore, they will be able to use the new ACMSF recommendation for these products and can apply a shelf-life of a maximum 13-day period without further activity.

“We hope BMPA and Retail organizations such as BRC will now reach out to us or our members to discuss implementation of technology which can add value to their product as well as confirm that the highest standards of food safety are maintained. We are ready to talk at any time,” said AIPIA.

This review applies only to VP/MAP chilled fresh beef, lamb and pork without added ingredients or further processing beyond cutting, packing, chilling, freezing and quick-freezing. It does not apply to any beef, lamb or pork that is subject to further processing such as mincing, cooking or mixing with any other ingredients such as herbs, spices or curing salts.

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