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Aged meat is no more risky than fresh one

This is claimed by EFSA experts in a report

The consumption of seasoned or long-aged meat is as safe as that of fresh meat. This is the conclusion reached by EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority in the report entitled "Aged meat not riskier than fresh meat". The report was published today: in it, EFSA experts confirmed that "cured meat does not present additional risks compared to fresh meat if it is cured under controlled conditions".

"In recent years, cured meat has become increasingly popular in the food industry and in restaurants, but until now its safety was not well known - explains Kostas Koutsoumanis , chairman of the team of scientific experts on EFSA's biological hazards - The opinion helps fill this gap and provides food business operators with a solid scientific basis for the production of safe cured meat." According to experts, there are no additional risks if the specific combinations of time and temperature indicated in the scientific opinion are respected during the curing process: dry-cured beef, for example, can be considered as safe as fresh if cured for up to 35 days at a temperature of 3° or lower.

To reach their conclusion, EFSA experts examined current practices by identifying the pathogens and spoilage bacteria that could develop and survive during the aging process and which could be harmful to health: these are E. coli (STEC), mainly present in beef, Salmonella spp., Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Yersinia spp. enterotoxic, Campylobacter spp. and Clostridium spp. "Meat aging - the experts write in the report - is a process during which microbes and enzymes act on the meat to break down the connective tissue, making it more tender and giving it a richer flavor. This process can be achieved through two main methods : wet curing and dry curing". Wet curing is used for beef, pork and lamb which is stored and refrigerated in a vacuum package, while dry aged beef is refrigerated without the package, resulting in a dry surface which is cut before preparation".

The report described the conditions, expressed as combinations of aging process time and temperature, under which the production of dry-aged and wet-aged meat would have the same level of safety as fresh meat. In the case of seasoned dried meat, the researchers advised not to exceed the surface temperature of 3° during the seasoning process. "In fact - they say - at higher temperatures, molds could grow on the surface of seasoned dried meat, some of which naturally produce mycotoxins, toxic compounds that can have harmful effects on health".

Finally, according to the experts, "the analysis of risks and critical control points (Haccp) and the prerequisite programs used to guarantee the safety of fresh meat are also applicable to cured meat".

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EFA News - European Food Agency