The British Meat Processors Association calls for a shelf life extension for fresh meat

20 Aug 2020

Current UK food regulations limit the shelf-life of fresh meat to 10 days when stored at 3-8 degrees Celsius. However, the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) is aiming to persuade the UK’s Food Standards Agency to extend those guidelines to allow for a longer shelf life.

In a joint report by BMPA and Meat & Livestock Australia published in Food Microbiology, the industry consortium found that cuts of fresh meat did not develop signs of contamination or botulism for periods beyond 10 days. While the average chilled retail shelf life was 11 to 13 days, the report showed that lamb can remain fresh for up to 27 days, pork for 18 days and beef for 23 days.

The British Meat Processors Association calls for a shelf life extension for fresh meat

“The level of protection estimated for fresh chilled red meat is greater than that reported in other assessments of this type for defined luncheon meats, canned cured ham and sausages,” the report said.

Prior to 2017, the UK permitted manufacturers and retails to determine use-by dates independently, which sometimes extended to three weeks for items that were properly sealed and chilled. The BMPA hopes to revert to a longer use-by timeline for vacuum- or gas-packaged fresh meats citing evidence from the report that no traces of the neurotoxin C. botulinum type B and E were documented on inoculated slices of beef until day 50 or day 25 for lamb and pork when properly packaged.

A greater shelf-life has the ability to not only benefit the financial bottom line for meatpackers and retailers, but a stretched timeline can also help reduce food waste. BMPA estimates that £3 billion pounds of food are trashed annually in the UK. In terms of tonnage, that staggering dollar figure translates to 40,000 tons of red meat, according to food waste nonprofit, WRAP.

Food waste presents an enormous problem for today’s consumers. Not only is food wasted in individual households, but according to the U.S. Food and Agriculture Organization, 40% is wasted in North America at some point in the supply chain – which can include retail shelves that hold packages past the use-by date. In the U.S., this waste translates to $18.2 billion per year, according to ReFED.

Consumers are recognizing the problem and have pushed corporations to become creative with food that would otherwise be wasted. In fact, the upcycled food market was worth $46.7 billion in 2019, according to a study from Future Market Insights.

Still, not all food is upcycled. Therefore, extending the shelf-life of meat in the UK will expand the chance of products being selected from shelves by consumers and lead to more sustainable consumption in the nation and fewer financial resources wasted on the part of manufacturers and retailers.

This joint consortium is conducting further risk assessments and plans to publish a final report in October.

Read the Report

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