Interesting to see the recent product recall notifications, as a precautionary measure, by the FSA for failure of procedures to control clostridium botulinum. The FSA Guidance on the safety and shelf life of vacuum and modified atmosphere packed (VP/MAP) chilled foods with respect to non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum (NPCB) has been available since 2008 but it seems that the guidance is being more rigorously enforced as a result of the update in June 2016.
NPCB is an anaerobe and if the conditions are right, including storage at 3⁰ C or above, may grow and produce a harmful toxin in VP/MAP chilled foods. The guidance recommends a maximum shelf life of 10 days for VP / MAP foods stored between 3⁰ and 8⁰ C if no other controlling factors to prevent the growth and toxin formation of NPCB are identified. As well as chilled storage there are five controlling factors stated in the guidance one of which is a pH of 5.0 or less throughout the food.
The updated guidance has clarified some points including a clear statement on raw meat falling within the scope of the guidance, more detail on the repackaging of VP/MAP foods and new expiry dates applied, and carrying out heat treatment, if used as the controlling factor, in the final sealed pack to prevent post cook contamination.
If you manufacture chilled VP/MAP foods then please make sure you are aware of this guidance and can justify and validate your processes and shelf life.