Meat processors seek label use of word “pasteurized”

A meat and poultry processors’ body plans to press the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to allow food firms to use the term “pasteurized” on eligible meat and poultry goods.

The North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP), which represents small- to medium-sized meat and poultry processors through offices in Ottawa and Washington, wrote the CFIA and its U.S. counterpart Monday.

Specifically, CFIA and the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) are being asked “to define the term ‘pasteurization’ as it applies to meat and poultry products, and to allow the use of the term ‘pasteurized’ on consumer labels.”

“Technologies have emerged that allow for the pasteurization of certain meat and poultry products, and the term ‘pasteurized’ best describes these products to consumers,” NAMP executive director Phil Kimball said in a release.

FSIS, for one, 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,” NAMP said.

“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.”

Along with approving such claims for eligible products, “we think it would be advisable for FSIS and the CFIA to provide public guidance or other communication clarifying the policy on the use of the term ‘pasteurized.'”

NAMP, in its letter, quoted CFIA meat programs director Dr. Richard Arsenault as saying a committee was being formed “to examine this possibility.”

Traditionally, NAMP said, the term “pasteurization” as we know it has been applied to heat treatments of milk, beer and other liquid foods to control food pathogens. More recently, the group said, the process has been applied to foods such as crabmeat, eggs and shellfish.

“Acceptable parameters”

Kansas State University professor James Marsden, a senior science advisor to NAMP, noted in the group’s release that its petition cites high hydrostatic pressure as an example of an emerging technology that allows for pasteurizing of meat and poultry.

“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,” Marsden said in the release.

It’s true, NAMP said, that there’s a second category of products in which “additional work needs to be done to establish acceptable parameters” for a possible pasteurization claim.

For example, in raw beef products, that may involve a “validated five-log reduction in E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella.” For cooked ready-to-eat products, those might include “both a lethality treatment and a post-lethality treatment.”

(A “log” refers to a gauge of live pathogen cells remaining in a given sample, measured in colony-forming units (CFU) per gram or millilitre.)

NAMP added that its request is “not intended to address irradiation,” which it said is now classified separately as a food additive — one for which regulations are already in place.

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