New red meat safety technology shows promise

05 April 2018

The safety and integrity of Australian red meat is being further bolstered following recent trials of new cutting-edge microwave technology, aimed at consumers who prefer their meat on the rare side of the cooking spectrum. 

The independent trials, funded by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), speak directly to a growing trend of eating undercooked red meat, especially in the food service sector.

While Australian meat is accepted as being safe when cooked by usual methods, undercooking may expose consumers to some risk.

The trials have shown that using a form of microwave technology on raw meat can significantly reduce the amount of naturally occurring bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is similar to other bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

The microwave process – which takes less than a second - was developed in the United States by Dr Vlad Sklyar and Dr Mike Shevelev, at Gyrotron Technology, Inc in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, as an industrial heating process for non-organic materials, and has now been applied to food.

MLA Program Manager - Market Access Science and Technology, Dr Ian Jenson, said the undercooking of red meat has become an increasingly popular trend, especially in restaurants, and consumers rightly expect a safe product.

“Government regulations also require meat to be completely free of harmful microorganisms. We have been working towards these outcomes for a number of years and these latest trial results are positive in that we now have a technology that is capable of achieving both of these,” Dr Jenson said.

“The results are equivalent to the pasteurization process for milk, which makes it a better technology than everything except irradiation, which is not acceptable to most consumers.”

Following these initial positive results, Dr Jenson said there is considerable work to do before the technology can be applied in the meat processing sector.

“This is a significant milestone in our efforts to improve the efficiency of processing, and ensuring acceptability and premium pricing for our product in all markets,” Dr Jenson said.

“Further research and development work will now occur through MLA’s subsidiary company - MLA Donor Company (MDC) - and will utilise funds from technology developers rather than red meat industry levies.”

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