The impact of dry-ageing of beef and wet-ageing of beef, pork and lamb on microbiological hazards and spoilage bacteria was examined and current practices are described. As ‘standard fresh’ and wet-aged meat use similar processes these were differentiated based on duration. In addition to a description of the different stages, data were collated on key parameters (time, temperature, pH and aw) using a literature survey and questionnaires.
The microbiological hazards that may be present in all aged meats included Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli(STEC),Salmonella spp., Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, enterotoxigenic Yersinia spp., Campylobacter spp. and Clostridium spp. Moulds, such as Aspergillus spp. and Penicillium spp., may produce mycotoxins when conditions are favourable but may be prevented by ensuring a meat surface temperature of−0.5 to 3.0°C, with a relative humidity (RH) of 75–85% and an airflow of 0.2–0.5 m/s for up to 35 days.
The main meat spoilage bacteria include Pseudomonas spp., Lactobacillus spp. Enterococcus spp., Weissella spp., Brochothrix spp., Leuconostoc spp. Lactobacillus spp., Shewanella spp. and Clostridium spp. Undercurrent practices, the ageing of meat may have an impact on the load of microbiological hazards and spoilage bacteria as compared to standard fresh meat preparation. Ageing under defined and controlled conditions can achieve the same or lower loads of microbiological hazards and spoilage bacteria than the variable log10increases predicted during standard fresh meat preparation. An approach was used to establish the conditions of time and temperature that would achieve similar or lower levels of L. monocytogenes and Yersinia enterocolitica (pork only) and lactic acid bacteria(representing spoilage bacteria) as compared to standard fresh meat. Finally, additional control activities were identified that would further assure the microbial safety of dry-aged beef, based on recommended best practice and the outputs of the equivalence assessment.