Meat research call: effectiveness of surface treatment in reducing microbiological contamination

Posted: 15 November 2013 | Food Standards Agency | No comments yet

The FSA is inviting tenders to carry out research on the effectiveness of surface treatment in reducing microbiological contamination of meat…

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The Food Standards Agency is inviting tenders to carry out research on the effectiveness of surface treatment in reducing microbiological contamination of meat. This project only applies to meat intended for the production of raw or lightly cooked food.


The undercooking of meat products, such as burgers and sausages, continues to be a significant concern, particularly for enforcement officers responsible for assessing the safety of practices used by food businesses.

Meat products, such as burgers, have been associated with food poisoning and they can pose a risk of illness because of the way they are prepared if they are then undercooked. For example, with whole pieces of meat, bacterial contamination is usually present on the outer surfaces. Internal (deep muscle) contamination is unlikely unless the meat has been pierced. External contamination can become spread throughout the meat during mincing, such as in the preparation of burgers, kebabs, sausages and other products.

Preference for undercooked burgers

There are indications that consumers and caterers are showing a preference for serving burgers undercooked and in a variety of settings. Local authority enforcement officers are concerned about the risk posed by such practices. A number of bacterial hazards may be associated with meat of which verocytotoxin-producing E.coli and salmonella are considered to be the most important.

About the project

The aim of the project is to examine whether treating the external surfaces of different cuts of beef, lamb and venison with heat and/or organic acids is effective in reducing microbiological contamination. This would be both before and after these meats are made into comminuted (a process that breaks up the meat into smaller pieces) products such as burgers.

The work should include:

  • a range of meat cuts from beef, lamb and venison, focusing on those cuts that would typically be used for the production of burgers
  • examining naturally contaminated meat, as well as samples spiked with pathogens, and include a range of heat and/or organic acid treatments
  • assessments both before and after the preparation of the meat into a range of comminuted products such as burgers, steak tartar, kebabs and sausages which may be served raw or lightly cooked

It is anticipated that there should be a sensory evaluation of the acceptability of the various treatments, particularly on whether the heating and organic acid treatment of the meat impacts on the acceptability of the final product.

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