Decontamination substances

Decontamination substances are applied to foods of animal origin intended for human consumption to remove micro-organisms that can cause diseases, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, from their surface. They can be chemical substances, but also biological agents such as bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria).

The European Commission asked EFSA to provide scientific opinions on the safety and efficacy of several substances, particularly those intended for use on poultry and beef carcasses. These include lactic acid, and peroxyacetic acid.

March 2010 EFSA issues an updated guidance document setting out the administrative, technical and scientific requirements for compiling an application to remove the surface contamination of foods of animal origin. It updates a guidance published in 2006.

EFSA provides scientific advice to EU risk managers on the safety and efficacy of decontamination substances.

These substances are authorised by the European Commission and Member States using EFSA’s scientific advice.

Under EU rules, all food manufacturers must follow good hygiene practices and hazard control measures at each step of the food chain to protect consumers against potential risks to their health.

Decontamination substances can be used only as a supplement to an integrated control programme across the food chain.

Lactic acid (for bovine meat) is the only decontamination substance currently allowed by EU legislation.