Specialized Meat Processing Variance training for retailers

Online training available to assist meat processors with application before the March 1, 2015 deadline.

Michigan State University Extension has developed an online training module to help meat processors that need to obtain a Specialized Meat Processing at Retail Food Establishments Variance by March 1, 2015. Meat processors in Michigan who cure meat or vacuum package cooked meat and are not USDA inspected through all processing are required to obtain one. The requirement is part of the Michigan Modified Food Code which originated from the Food and Drug Administration 2009 Food Code and is under regulatory jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). Obtaining a variance requires processors to implement parts of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) to improve food safety within their operation. The application is designed to assist processors in identifying what information is required and what records must be maintained. Processors are encouraged by MDARD to submit applications now through January 1, 2015.

Numerous meat processors in Michigan are producing meat products for sale in retail establishments. Often, processors are making products that are cured and/or packaged in reduced oxygen packaging. Smoking and using food additives are also outlined as procedures which would require a variance if the steps were used for preservation. But for most meat products, smoking and using food additives are not steps used for preservation or rendering product non-hazardous; they are utilized for flavor enhancement.

The online training involves a series of 12 videos and access to supplemental information designed to assist processors in filling out the application and obtaining a variance. The video series costs $50 for a DVD or $40 to download the lessons and watch them at your computer. The videos can be found on the Specialized Meat Processing Variance Training page on shop.msu.edu.

The videos include:

  1. What is the Food Code and when is a variance needed?
  2. Basic food safety
  3. Impacts of unsafe food production
  4. Acronyms and prerequisite programs
  5. HACCP Principles 1 – 3
  6. HACCP Principles 4 – 7
  7. MDARD Application for Specialized Meat Processing at Retail Food Establishments Variance
  8. Measuring pH in processed meat products
  9. Measuring water activity in processed meat products
  10. Making a wet bulb
  11. Calculations to determine the proper amount of nitrite
  12. Extending shelf life beyond 14 days

The most significant change for most processors will be increased documentation and verification that is needed during daily processing. The overall goal of the variance is to improve food safety and make sure that processed meat products made and sold through retail operations are providing a safe and wholesome product.

A portion of the costs for the development of the online training were funded by MDARD. 

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