Scientific Opinion on the evaluation of the safety and efficacy of lactic acid for the removal of microbial surface contamination of beef carcasses, cuts and trimmings

Decontamination, beef, lactic acid, efficacy, toxicological safety assessment, antimicrobial resistance, environmental impact
First published in the EFSA Journal
26 July 2011
7 July 2011
Scientific Opinion


Studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of lactic acid treatment for decontamination of beef carcasses, cuts and trimmings were assessed. Treatments considered consisted of using 2 % to 5 % lactic acid solutions at temperatures of up to 55 °C applied either by spraying or misting. It is concluded that these treatments will be of no safety concern provided the substance used complies with the European Union specifications for food additives. A total of 25 papers of the 52 submitted were selected as meeting certain criteria and were included in the assessment of the antimicrobial efficacy of lactic acid. No studies applying water rinsing of lactic acid after treatment of beef were submitted, and therefore, this issue was not addressed. As the studies described in the selected papers used a wide range of experimental designs, the assessment did not attempt to differentiate efficacy based on factors such as lactic acid concentration and temperature, that might influence efficacy. It was concluded that, although variable, microbial reductions achieved by lactic acid treatment of beef are generally significant compared to untreated or water treated controls. Development of enzymatic resistance to therapeutic antimicrobials as a result of exposure to lactic acid and the possibility of mutational changes resulting in the development of resistance to therapeutic antimicrobials are unlikely. An environmental risk assessment was not carried out as the lactic acid concentration before entering the wastewater treatment system is considered as negligible. It is recommended that, according to HACCP principles, during use, business operators verify lactic acid concentration, temperature of application and other factors affecting its efficacy as a decontaminating agent and validate the antimicrobial efficacy under their specific processing conditions.

Panel members at the time of adoption

Olivier Andreoletti, Herbert Budka, Sava Buncic, John D Collins, John Griffin, Tine Hald, Arie Havelaar, James Hope, Günter Klein, Kostas Koutsoumanis, James McLauchlin, Christine Müller-Graf, Christophe Nguyen-The, Birgit Nørrung, Luisa Peixe, Miguel Prieto Maradona, Antonia Ricci, John Sofos, John Threlfall, Ivar Vågsholm and Emmanuel Vanopdenbosch
Panel on Biological Hazards
Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids
biohaz [at]
CEF-unit [at]
EFSA Journal 2011;9(7):2317
On request from
European Commission