The North American Meat Processors Association filed a petition this week asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Canadian Food Inspection Service to allow the term “pasteurized” to be used for certain meat and poultry products.
“Technologies have emerged that allow for the pasteurization of certain meat and poultry products, and the term ‘pasteurized’ best describes these products to consumers,” said NAMP executive director Phil Kimball, in a recent association news update.
NAMP cites a U.S. National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) definition of pasteurization: “Any process, treatment, or combination thereof, which is applied to food to reduce the most resistant microorganism(s) of public health significance to a level that is not likely to present a public health risk under normal conditions of distribution and storage.”
The petition asks that FSIS approve immediately the use of the term “pasteurized” on labels for certain categories of products, and to issue a communication clarifying its policy:
“FSIS is legally required to accept the use of such terminology unless it can reasonably assert that the use of such a claim on a given label is either false or misleading … Clearly that is not the case for products that are fully cooked or that have otherwise been processed in a manner that has effectively eliminated potential public health risks from pathogenic organisms, particularly when firms have validated this outcome.”
The news update also cites Robert G. Hibbert of K&L Gates, NAMP’s legal counsel, who formerly served as the director of USDA’s standards and labeling staff:
“The characterization of such products as ‘pasteurized’ is entirely accurate, and FSIS should not have any problem with the sanction of such claims.”
NAMP’s Senior Science Advisor Dr. James Marsden, Regents’ Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University, also weighed in.
“The NAMP petition cites high hydrostatic pressure as an example of one of the emerging technologies that allows for the pasteurization of meat and poultry products,” explained Marsden. “This technology is widely used to treat sliced processed meat and poultry products to eliminate the risk of Listeria monocytogenes, but consumers are unaware that the treated products are ‘pasteurized’ because the term doesn’t appear on the product label.”
The NAMP petition is “not intended to address irradiation,” which is classified as a food additive and already has labeling requirements, according to the update.