Critical Limit Summary: Validating Shelf‐Stability of Vacuum‐Packaged RTE Meat ProductsDOWNLOAD FILE
March 18, 2020
Several federal labeling standards exist for composition of ready‐to‐eat (RTE) meat products. The standards have been used to define product characteristics and have long been assumed to define shelf‐stability. However, USDA now requires processors to validate the shelf‐stability of RTE products in the Heat Treated, Shelf‐Stable HACCP product category, SEPARATELY FROM THE LABELING STANDARDS. Under vacuum‐packaging conditions, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes are the pathogens best able to tolerate reduced water activity and increased salt level. Therefore, if S. aureus and L. monocytogenes do not grow on a vacuum packaged RTE product during room temperature storage, the product can be considered shelf‐stable under those conditions.