In 2010 the European Commission requested a Scientific Opinion on an application dossier submitted by the U S Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the approval of lactic acid for uses to reduce microbial contamination of beef hides, carcasses, cuts and trimmings.
EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has now published the opinion of two of its panels and said that the treatments considered consisted of using two-per cent to five-per cent lactic acid solutions at temperatures of up to 55 °C applied either by spraying or misting.
It was concluded that these treatments “will be of no safety concern provided the substance used complies with the European Union specifications for food additives”.
Purac is a division of the Dutch firm CSM and the food preservation supplier’s core portfolio is based on lactates and lactic acid.
It said several studies were evaluated that reported significant reductions in microbial loads (such as E. coli) compared to water treated or untreated carcasses.
Purac also highlighted that recent outbreaks of the Shiga-toxin producing non-O157 STEC/EHEC (enterohemorrhagic E. coli) strains “have again emphasized the need for additional interventions throughout the food chain”.
Proven in beef
Lonneke van Dijk, category manager meat, at Purac claims its portfolio is effective against E. coli when decontaminating surfaces of fresh meat.
Van Dijk said: “These natural anti-microbials have proven themselves in the beef industry by having been successfully used for decades as part of multiple hurdle systems. Purac sees the positive opinion of the EFSA panel as an important step forward in European Commission efforts to combat various food-borne pathogens.”
Lactic acid is produced by a fermentation process involving the fermentation of carbohydrates such as glucose, sucrose or lactose.
It occurs naturally in fermented foods such as cheese, yoghurts, soy sauce and meats. It is also used in a broad range of manufactured food products as a preservative or acidity regulator.
This month Purac increased its prices by an average eight per cent, blaming increases in raw material prices such as carbohydrates and auxiliary products.
The assessment by the Panel on Biological Hazards and the Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids included two pathogenic bacterial groups (Salmonella and STEC/VTEC, including E.coli O157:H7, E. coli O111:H8 and E. coli O26:H11).
E. coli outbreaks
In 2009/2010 the safety record of the US meat industry came under intense scrutiny after it was suspected the mechanical meat tenderisation may have been the cause of increased E. coli risk in beef and pork products.
More recently in Europe, an E. coli outbreak killed 48 people in Germany this year. Authorities said Egyptian fenugreek sprouts were the likely source.