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The Development of Protocols for the Microbiological Assessment of Red Meat Carcasses, in the Context of HACCP


Standard Rules of Northern Ireland 2002 No. 217 Meat (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 were introduced in Northern Ireland on 15th July 2002. This legislation requires red meat carcasses to be microbiologically tested using a destructive excision method or an alternative swabbing method. Data from this initiative are used for process control purposes to support the adoption of HACCP in these meat plants.

Provision for alternative carcass sampling protocols was outlined in Commission Decision 2001/471/EC. Industry identified that a non-destructive method would more acceptable to the meat industry, however, equivalence with the destructive method was required to ensure validity of the data produced. This project seeks to evaluate alternative carcass sampling protocols for cattle, sheep and pigs in Northern Ireland and develop equivalent non-destructive methods for adoption throughout the UK. This is a multicentre study working in conjuction with the University of Bristol, the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

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Progress: Three local abattoirs agreed to participate in this study (one for each of the three red meat species). Each abattoir was visited on twelve occasions for microbiological sampling to be performed. On each visit, four sampling sites on both sides of ten carcasses were microbiologically sampled using destructive and non-destructive protocols. Two further visits were made to each abattoir to perform testing for twenty control carcasses by applying the same sampling method to both sides of the same carcass, to investigate ‘side bais’. Data from this study are currently being processed and analysed.

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