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FSA revises shelf-life guidance for meat products

16th Dec 2020 / By Alistair Driver

In amongst all the current uncertainty hanging over the industry, we are pleased to be able to report a piece of good news. 

After years of prompting from the meat sector, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has agreed to revise the guidance on fresh meat sell-by dates in line with the new scientific evidence.

The move has been warmly welcomed by the British Meat Processors Association. Following years of scientific research, it has been proven that use-by dates can be safely extended beyond the current one-size-fits-all 10 day rule, which has led to a huge amount of quality produce that could have been eaten being thrown away each year, the BMPA said.

The FSA’s decision was taken based on a combination of evidence that includes expert microbiological advice, epidemiological information on the occurrence of botulism and data on meat products gathered over many years from around the world. This review found no evidence of outbreaks of foodborne botulism related to these products globally.

Going forward, food businesses can choose an appropriate safe shelf-life for chilled fresh beef, lamb and pork that has been vacuum or modified atmosphere packed (VP/MAP) based on their existing in-house food safety management systems, in the same way they already do for other types of food. They will no longer have to apply an arbitrary 10 days.

“I welcome this decision, which represents modern evidence-based regulation, and has been reached thanks to excellent joined-up working between industry and regulator,” said David Lindars, co-chair of a joint FSA/Industry working group and the BMPA's Technical Operations Director.

“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.”