Meat Safety - Part 1Thursday, March 04, 2021
Meat shops are very common in Jamaica, with many communities boasting at least one. Oftentimes, however, these spaces carry an odour. Why the smell, though? Is it the nature of the product or a hygiene and sanitation issue? Meat is classified as a perishable food because it spoils easily and has a limited shelf life; for this reason meat is a food safety concern. Uncooked meat has the risk of being contaminated with microorganisms such as salmonella or E coli since both of these bacteria are present in the intestinal tract of animals. Due to the nature of meat, the risk must be managed from the start (health of live animal) to the end (on the plate). A demonstration of poor management can be seen in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention example of an outbreak E coli infection linked to ground beef in the USA in 2019.
Recently, I observed the meat delivery and receival process of a wholesale and meat shop and could identify at least five instances of breaches in the process flow. Since meat is highly perishable and can be contaminated easily, it is essential that all stages along the supply chain be maintained according to food safety regulations and standards. With respect to meat shops in Jamaica, these fall under the responsibility of the Public Health Act.
The Act stipulates that:
1. Butchers and meat shops must be licensed to operate.
2. Personnel who handle meat should be free of infectious disease such as typhoid, influenza or tuberculosis.
3. All meat shop workers must have a valid food handler's permit.
4. Only safe and wholesome meats must be sold; it is illegal to sell condemned meat.
5. Animal carcasses (cattle, pigs, goats) must be inspected and stamped by a public health inspector as being fit for human consumption.
• Meat shop operators must not buy animal carcasses without this evidence.
6. Meat must be stored and transported properly to prevent contamination.
Therefore, this shows that it is the responsibility of the meat shop owner/operator to ensure that products being offered for sale are safe and suitable according to the Public Health Act for meat hygiene requirements. Takeaway point: It is your responsibility.
One of the best ways that a meat shop operator can take responsibility is to become knowledgeable about what the risks and hazards relevant to their operation are and what must be done to control them. This can be done through the implementing of meat hygiene and sanitation practices for meat and poultry establishments.
In summary, meat is a perishable food that can pose significant food safety risks. While there are regulations that govern the operations of meat shops or other meat-handling facilities, it is the direct responsibility of the operator to ensure that meat being sold is safe and fit for human consumption.
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