The New Year has brought a lot of seismic changes to businesses across a wide range of industries, but before then in mid-December, there was a particularly important one for butchers. Namely, the Food Standards Agency officially updated its guidance on the shelf-life of vacuum and modified-atmosphere packed chilled fresh beef, lamb and pork. It followed an open consultation with the industry that concluded in late November - so if you’re a business which that’s ever been in need of products like the best butchers knife sets, butchers spares, or meat bandsaws, this is one for you.

What’s been the change?

The main change being introduced is that food business operators (such as butchers and other food retailers) can choose a safe shelf-life for chilled raw and ready-to-eat products according to their existing safety management systems, just as they do for other types of food.

This marks a departure from the previous ‘10-day rule’, a term referring to the maximum shelf-life best practice guidance for these products. The 10 day rule was primarily introduced to tackle the risk of C. botulinum, a bacterium with the ability to produce harmful toxins in favourable circumstances, and a constant hygiene threat for anyone working in the meat industry.

Though the FSA regarded the 10 day rule to be a necessary measure to ensure public health, it was decried by many in the industry at the time, who viewed it as unnecessary and draconian - some going as far as to call it amongst ‘the most contentious and criticised measures imposed on the food industry’. Now the new guidance has been updated so that it does not apply to chilled fresh beef, lamb or pork. Instead, information on these products, and the scope of the guidance in question, is provided in paragraphs 22 to 25.

The update was prompted by a combination of evidence, including expert microbiological advice, epidemiological information on botulism, and a range of international data


What’s been the reaction?

As expected, the reaction has largely been positive, welcomed with open arms in many quarters. However, some industry observers have been keen to point out that while the latest development is undoubtedly good news, they still see it as being long overdue. Some of the most vocal proponents of this view include the experts at National Craft Butchers, who have nonetheless described the latest update as a ‘great day’ for the whole industry.

A spokesperson from the Food Standards Agency said that “food businesses will be able to follow existing industry guidance to ensure that an appropriate shelf life is applied to these products, while support will be provided to smaller businesses who may not have this capability by setting a modified 13-day limit.”

They went on to add that “we are confident that food businesses throughout the UK will continue to put standards and safety at the heart of everything they do, so consumers can be confident their interests come first.”

Every business has their own role to play in upholding these standards, and of course a big part of that is making sure that you maintain excellent standards for your butchers equipment. That’s where we can help here at Butchers Equipment Warehouse - we stock a huge range of butchers knives and sharpeners, as well as a broad choice of butchers spares and consumables, ideal for any private or commercial kitchen. If you need any advice or you’re looking for anything in particular, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01254 427761. We’re here to help!