Preservation of meat and meat products from microbial spoilage

Asepsis is the state of being free from disease-causing microorganisms. Maintaining aseptic conditions during slaughtering and handling of meat is essential to avoid microbial contamination and spoilage of meat products. Aseptic processing is a technique that involves placing a sterilized product into a sterilized package that is then sealed under sterile conditions . Some of the methods to achieve asepsis in meat processing are:

  • Spraying water on animals before slaughter to remove gross dirt and reduce the microbial load on the skin.
  • Using sterile knives, utensils, clothes, gloves, and other equipment to avoid introducing microbes from the environment or the handlers.
  • Cleaning and sanitizing the equipment and surfaces that come in contact with meat frequently and thoroughly.
  • Separating raw and cooked meat to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Using high-temperature–short-time (HTST) method to heat the meat at a high temperature for a short period of time to kill spoilage-causing microbes. The time and temperature conditions depend on several factors, such as size, shape, and type of meat.
  • Using heat exchangers, such as tubular, plate, or scraped-surface types, to transfer heat efficiently and uniformly to the meat product.
  • Using ohmic heating, which involves passing electric current through the meat product to generate heat internally and uniformly.
  • Using packaging materials and equipment that are sterilized with various medium or combination of mediums, such as saturated steam, superheated steam, hydrogen peroxide and heat, or other treatments .
  • Sealing the packages under sterile conditions to prevent recontamination of the product .
  • Storing and transporting the packages at appropriate temperatures to maintain the quality and safety of the product .

Aseptic processing and packaging can extend the shelf life of meat products for several months or years without refrigeration. It can also preserve the nutritional and sensory characteristics of meat products better than conventional methods. However, it requires strict quality control and monitoring to ensure that all the steps are performed correctly and effectively. Any deviation from the scheduled process can compromise the sterility of the product and pose a risk of foodborne illness. Therefore, aseptic processing and packaging should be done by trained personnel following standard operating procedures and good manufacturing practices.