US & Canadian Processors Petition to Use ‘Pasteurised’

US & CANADA - The North American Meat Processors Association has petitioned the US Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and asked the Canadian Food inspection Service (CFIA) to allow the term 'pasteurised' to be used for qualified meat and poultry products.
calendar icon 5 May 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

Traditionally, the process of pasteurisation has been applied to the heat treatment of milk, beer and other liquid foods to control food pathogens. More recently, however, the process has been applied to other foods, including crabmeat, eggs and shellfish.

According to NAMP Executive Director, Phil Kimball: "Technologies have emerged that allow for the pasteurization of certain meat and poultry products, and the term 'pasteurised' best describes these products to consumers.

"NAMP asks FSIS to approve immediately the use of the term 'pasteursed' on labels for certain categories of products, and issue a communication clarifying its policy. As a matter of process we would note that, for certain categories of products, FSIS acceptance of pasteurisation claims can be conveyed immediately through the issuance of routine label approvals.

"FSIS is legally required to accept the use of such terminology unless it can reasonably assert that the use of such a claim on a given label is either false or misleading.

"Clearly that is not the case for products that are fully cooked or that have otherwise been processed in a manner that has effectively eliminated potential public health risks from pathogenic organisms, particularly when firms have repeatedly validated this outcome.

"In addition to approving such claims for product in this category, we think it would be advisable for FSIS to issue some sort of public guidance or other communication clarifying its policy in this area," said Mr Kimball.

NAMP legal counsel and a former director of USDA's standards and labelling staff, Robert G. Hibbert of the K&L Gates law firm, said: "The characterisation of such products as 'pasteursed' is entirely accurate, and FSIS should not have any problem with the sanction of such claims."

NAMP also recognises there is a second category of products where additional work needs to be done to establish acceptable parameters for such claims. For example, in raw beef products, it may be a validated 5-log reduction in E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. For cooked, RTE products, the performance standards might include both a lethality treatment and a post-lethality treatment. The definition by the US National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) should serve as the continuing benchmark, NAMP said.

NAMP's Senior Science Advisor, Dr James Marsden, Regents. Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University, said: "The NAMP petition cites high hydrostatic pressure as an example of one of the emerging technologies that allows for the pasteurization of meat and poultry products.

"This technology is widely used to treat sliced processed meat and poultry products to eliminate the risk of Listeria monocytogenes, but consumers are unaware that the treated products are 'pasteurized' because the term doesn't appear on the product label."

The NAMP petition is not intended to address irradiation. Irradiation is classified as a food additive, and regulations on food irradiation and consumer labeling for irradiated food products are already in place.

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