Scientific Opinion on the public health risks related to the maintenance of the cold chain during storage and transport of meat. Part 2 (minced meat from all species)
Fresh meat intended for the production of minced meat may be contaminated by a range of pathogens including Salmonella spp. and verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC). These may grow if the temperatures are not maintained below 5 °C along the continuum from carcass chilling to mincing. Moreover Listeria monocytogenes and Yersinia enterocolitica will grow at chill temperatures, albeit slowly, but significant growth may occur during prolonged storage. Current legislation (Regulation (EC) 853/2004) requires that red meat carcasses are immediately chilled after post-mortem inspection to not more than 7 °C throughout and that this temperature be maintained until mincing which must take place not more than 6 or 15 (vacuum-packed meat) days after slaughter. The corresponding figures for poultry are 4 °C and 3 days. The impact of storage time between slaughter and mincing on bacterial pathogen growth was investigated using predictive modelling. Storage time-temperature combinations that allow growth of Salmonella, VTEC, L. monocytogenes and Y. enterocolitica equivalent to those obtained under the conditions defined by Regulation (EC) 853/2004 were identified. As the modelling assumed favourable pH and aw for bacterial growth, no microbial competition and no lag phase, the equivalent times reported are based on worst-case scenarios. This analysis suggested, for example, that red meat, vacuum packed beef and poultry could be stored at 2 °C for up to 14, 39 and 5 days, respectively, without more bacterial pathogen growth occurring than that which would be achieved under current legislative conditions. It was therefore concluded that alternative time-temperature combinations for the storage of fresh meat between slaughter and mincing are possible without increasing bacterial pathogen growth, and maximum times for the storage of fresh meat intended for minced meat preparation are provided for different storage temperatures. The impact of spoilage on maximum storage times was not considered.