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Lactic Acid Carcase Treatment will Ease Trade Concerns

20 January 2012

ANALYSIS - Moves by the European Commission to relax the regulations surrounding the use of lactic acid as a treatment to decontaminate beef carcases could well avert another trade dispute between the EU and the US.

No date has yet been set for the relaxation of the rules that only allow potable water to wash down carcases in the meat plant. However, legislation is expected later this year and agencies such as the Food Standards Agency in the US are already recommending to government ministers that local rules should be eased.

As at present no products that have been treated with lactic acid can be imported into the UK, the US has regarded the stringent EU hygiene rules as a trade barrier.

The US maintains that the use of these post slaughter decontamination treatments is both safe and effective in reducing a number of pathogens on the surface of the meat.

In December 2010 the USDA submitted a dossier to the EU for evaluation, hoping for the approval of lactic acid for the decontamination of beef carcases and meat.

The European Food Safety Authority published a scientific opinion in July last year that concluded there would be no safety concern in its use and it showed that it would be efficient in reducing the prevalence of Salmonella, Verocytoxin producing E.coli and naturally occurring Enterobacteriaceae.

However, in 2008, a European Commission proposal for the use of chlorine on poultry carcases as a decontaminant raised concerns among some over the environmental impact and also the potential for antibiotic resistance build up.

No such concerns have been raised over the use of lactic acid, but there are worries that its use could be seen by consumers as the meat plants cutting corners of food safety practices - relying on the decontamination treatment for dirty carcases rather than insisting on clean carcases and good hygiene practices.

As the use of lactic acid in not going to be imposed but allowed, consumers will be able to still see good hygiene measures in practice through HACCP and it also means there will not be an imposed financial burden on the industry.

It is more likely that the use will be on imported meat. Conversely if the measure is banned there could be a negative impact on trade.

However, the amount of beef that will now come in from the US in particular because of this relaxation in lactic acid use is not likely to swamp the markets. The US is still restricted in the amounts it can bring in both by quotas and also by a block on meat from animals that have been treated with growth hormones.

Although more non-hormone treated beef it allowed into the EU, the quantities are still not over significant.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris



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