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Ag News

Tassie researchers partly solve a big meaty problem

  • By: "Prime" Ag News
  • May 22, 2018

Australia has an international reputation for quality red meat products and Tasmanian food safety research is a contributing factor.

Food safety researchers at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) have developed a method to reduce pathogenic E. coli on beef, with further testing underway.

“Most types of E. coli are harmless. Our team of meat researchers are focused on the rare, pathogenic E. coli, which can cause infections and serious illness if we eat foods containing the bacteria,” TIA food safety expert Associate Professor Tom Ross said.

“Pathogenic E. coli are a risk to public health so there is a no tolerance for themin some export markets – our team is working to reduce this risk in red meat.”

Associate Professor Ross heads up the Principal Research Organisation for Microbial Ecology and Physiology (PROMEP), which is based at TIA and is a collaboration with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

Dr Jay Kocharunchitt and PhD student Zachary Block are part of the team of TIA researchers working to improve the safety of Australia’s red meat during processing at the abattoir.

“We’ve discovered a method that shows significant reductions in E. coli numbers and retains water in the beef, so the weight, quality and safety of the meat is maintained,” TIA Research Fellow Dr Jay Kocharunchitt said.

“We’re working towards a commercial-ready solution that will consistently eliminate E. coli and other bacterial pathogens from beef and lamb carcasses in the abattoir.”

Last week Dr Jay Kocharunchitt and Zachary Block carried out a 24 hour trial at the JBS abattoir at Longford.

“We captured real-time data that gives us microbiological baseline data. We’re planning to use the data to design and conduct further trials at the JBS abattoir in New South Wales next month,” Dr Kocharunchitt said.

Michael Johnston, Group Food Safety Quality Assurance Manager at JBS has been working with TIA’s food safety researchers for over a decade, and has been overseeing the trials at JBS.

“TIA’s renowned food safety team have developed a number of tools that help us assess the safety of our red meat products and ensure we maintain a very high product quality,” Mr Johnston said.

TIA researchers, in conjunction with MLA, recently launched a predictive tool for the shelf life of vacuum-packed chilled beef.

Use of the tool has demonstrated that the shelf life of beef can be over 140 days, more than double the currently accepted shelf life of vacuum-packed chilled beef for exports to Japan and offering greater flexibility to growers and processors.

Mr Johnston said that the predictive tool assists industry to improve the quality of vacuum-packed meat and meet consumer demand.

“Working with TIA’s meat researchers helps us ensure Australia’s meat industry is competitive in the global market,” he said.  

“The research is valuable for the whole Australian meat industry – including farmers, processors and stores – as it ultimately reduces the amount of meat wasted.”

Further information about the Shelf Life Prediction Service for vacuum-packed meat and research updates are available on Meaty Micro Matters.

Picture - The team of meat researchers at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture
Back row: Tai Gardner (PhD candidate), Zachary Block (PhD candidate), Dr Lyndal Mellefont, Associate Professor Tom Ross, Associate Professor John Bowman and Dr Jay Kocharunchitt
Front row: Laura Rood (PhD candidate) and Dr Mandeep Kaur
Absent: PhD candidate Bianca Porteus