The apex food regulator of the country, FSSAI, has notified standards for processed meat and meat products. Called Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Fourth Amendment Regulations, 2020, the regulations explain standards related to canned or retort pouch meat products, restructured meat products, cured or pickled and cooked or smoked meat products, or both, dried or dehydrated meat products, cooked or semi-cooked meat products, fresh or chilled or frozen rabbit meat, marinated meat products and fermented meat products.
In this regard, Food Business Operators (FBOs) dealing in meat and meat products were asked to comply with all the provisions of these regulations by July 1, 2021.
Canned or retort pouch meat products mean the meat products packed in hermetically sealed containers or pouches which have been thermally processed at specified temperature, pressure and time combination followed by rapid cooling to render the product shelf-stable, say the regulations and they may be processed by canning or retorting, retort pouch or containers and commercial sterility.
Comminuted meat products means boneless meat which has been subjected to particle size reduction by cutting or grinding or dicing or chopping or milling or marinating, or both and with or without additives. This category also includes meat emulsions or batters which are finely comminuted meat products containing true solutions, gels, emulsified fat and air. An emulsion is defined as a mixture of two immiscible liquids, one of which is dispersed in the form of small droplets or globules in the other liquid.
“Comminution is a process by which particle size is reduced for incorporation of meat raw materials into finished products,” says the regulation.
Restructured meat products means meat or meat products that have been ground, flaked, or chopped and formed into steak or chop or any other shape with a texture that is closer to that of an intact steak than that of ground meat. And restructured meat products are prepared by flaking, grinding or chopping meat so that it is formed into steak or chop like products with texture closer to intact meat.
Further, regulations define cured meat as the product prepared after curing meat with common salt, nitrate or nitrite and adjuncts for the purpose of preservation and obtaining desirable colour, flavour and shelf life, while meat pickle is traditional, shelf-stable ready-to-eat products which are prepared using common salt, vinegar and edible vegetable oil, seasoned with spices and condiments.
And smoked meat means the product prepared by exposing the cured or cooked meat to smoke produced by hard wood for flavour and preservation. Alternatively, liquid smoke (oil-based, water-soluble or dry powder) shall be applied to meat through dipping or drenching, automising (spraying) or directly mixing with meat formulation.
The regulations also prescribe that dried or dehydrated meat products means the meat or meat products in which part of free water has been removed by evaporation or sublimation. Meat products preserved by dehydration are conveniently divided into two groups based on water activity (aw) levels; “low-moisture” and “intermediate-moisture” meat products.
It may be of (a) Low-moisture meat products: Meat products having an aw of less than 0.60 and containing less than 25% moisture and (b) Intermediate-moisture foods: Meat products having an aw between 0.60 and 0.85 and containing less than 50% moisture.
Also prescribed in the regulations are standards for fermented meat product, which is defined as the meat product produced by action of selected fermenting microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria or yeast, or both, in the presence of salt by the process of fermentation, ripening and drying. It may contain non-meat ingredients such as sugar, spices, seasonings and condiments.