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Department of Agriculture (USDA)-inspected processing plants must achieve appropriate lethality of the most resistant vegetative bacterial pathogens reasonably likely to occur.
Products like pepperoni and hard salami are seeded with starter cultures, fermented and dried to achieve lethality and then cooled prior to final packaging. United States Department of Agriculture-Food Safety and Inspection Service.
As mentioned, packaging film is designed to limit transmission of oxygen and moisture. Date, September 8, 2006, Basics for Handling Food Safely.
Examples of oxygen transmission rates (OTRs) for RTE meats are the following: less than 18.6 cm²/m²24 h at 23 °C and 0% relative humidity (RH) and 3–5 cm²/24 h at 4.4 °C and 0% RH; moisture vapor transmission rates are commonly 0.4–0.6 g H2O/100 in²/24 h at 38 ºC and 90% RH.
These barrier properties can be reduced by the degree to which packaging film is stretched, particularly in the corners of the packages. Comparison of modified atmosphere packaging and vacuum packaging for long period storage of dry-cured ham: effects on color, texture and microbiological quality.
Once the packaging seal is broken, these barrier properties are lost.
Packaging film for RTE meats is typically comprised of coextruded plastic materials, including combinations of nylon, polyethylene and polyvinyl dichloride. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U. Department of Agriculture-Food Safety Inspection Service, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quantitative assessment of relative risk to public health from foodborne among selected categories of ready-to-eat foods. United States Department of Agriculture-Food Safety and Inspection Service. These antimicrobial ingredients are widely used in the industry and have been extensively validated to control the growth of on vacuum- or modified atmosphere-packaged RTE meats held at refrigeration temperatures. Some research has also been done showing growth control of the pathogen when RTE meat products are stored exposed to air (i.e., open packages) at refrigeration. A separate study found that storage of vacuum-packaged pepperoni sticks at 4 or 21 °C (39 or 70 °F) caused O157: H7 during fermentation, drying and storage of full and reduced fat pepperoni under air or vacuum but found few significant differences. Reductions were greater when pepperoni was stored at room temperature compared with refrigeration. Others found that post-process inoculated 1.5 log CFU/cm² in 6 days) on pepperoni under refrigeration and even more rapidly at ambient temperature. Foodborne bacterial pathogens do not survive well on dry-cured pork products either.