Meat & Livestock News

Revolutionising Hygiene Assessment in Red Meat Processing: A Move Towards Modernisation

A lot of raw meat hung and arranged in a row in a processing meat production factory. Horizontal view.

Over the past two decades, the red meat processing industry has undergone significant changes. However, the system for hygiene assessment used in process monitoring has remained largely unchanged since its last review in 2002. Process monitoring encompasses all aspects of meat production, including any equipment that comes into contact with the meat.

The Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) is actively working to develop an updated ‘visual assessment system’ for meat hygiene assessment in process monitoring. This initiative is being undertaken in collaboration with industry and regulatory stakeholders.

It builds on the success of a project with the South Australia Research and Development Institute (SARDI), which aided the industry in focusing visual inspections more effectively on areas where contamination is most common.

Ann McDonald, AMPC Program Manager, emphasises the shift towards a risk-based approach. The collaboration with SARDI on industry trials aimed to modernise monitoring and testing methods. This resulted in a streamlined Product Hygiene Index reporting, reducing the number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and an enhanced microbiological testing regime.

These improvements, implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, are now standard across processing plants.

The current focus is on extending this approach to process monitoring. This involves assessing whether contamination rates are higher on various equipment such as trays, knives, and belts. The objective is to devise a system that aligns the greatest effort with the highest risk areas.

Five processors are set to participate in new trials scheduled to begin early in 2024. The outcomes of these trials are expected to be reported by the end of the financial year. This work is crucial in completing the updated hygiene monitoring approach.

A risk-based system for process monitoring in plants will complement the existing work on monitoring visible contamination of products. Subject to regulatory approval, this system will enable processors to allocate resources based on risk, thereby enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of production.