The FSA has revised its 10-day use-by date rule for chilled meat following a month-long consultation on the issue in the autumn.
From today (10 December), the shelf-life of vacuum and modified atmosphere packed fresh beef, lamb and pork can be selected by food businesses based on their existing in-house food safety management systems.
These companies will be able to apply an updated shelf-life to their products as long as they provide supporting evidence to the FSA and local authorities to justify their decision.
Smaller businesses without the internal capabilities to carry out such processes are now able to use a default shelf-life of 13 days.
Meat products that have added ingredients or have undergone further processing beyond cutting, packing, chilling or freezing will remain subject to the existing 10-day advice.
“The UK has a robust legal framework and the food industry is responsible for ensuring food placed on the market is safe,” said FSA director of policy Rebecca Sudworth.
“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.”
The British Meat Processors Association welcomed the FSA’s move, having campaigned against what it called the previous “arbitrary, one-size-fits-all” approach towards use-by-dates for more than 18 months.
“[This decision] represents modern evidence-based regulation and has been reached thanks to excellent joined-up working between industry and regulator,” said BMPA technical operations director David Lindars.
“We are confident that this is a proportionate outcome that will benefit consumers and food businesses and help reduce food waste, whilst not compromising food safety.”
BMPA cited estimates from campaign group Wrap that 200,000 tonnes of meat that is safe to consume is thrown away in-home every year.
The announcement follows advice from the FSA’s main scientific advisory body in January that the existing regulations, which were put in place to prevent the risk of foodborne botulism, could be safely extended to 13 days.
Meanwhile, in 2019, research by the BMPA and Meat & Livestock Australia found use-by-dates could be extended to at least 21 days for beef.