Boosting food safety in artisanal sausage while maintaining taste, quality

Making sausage in the lab - web

Guelph Preparing sausage samples

This week’s story is courtesy of the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC).

Guelph – A new protocol developed at the University of Guelph is letting meat processors strengthen food safety in fermented sausages without using heat.

Since January 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has required provincially licensed meat processing plants to adopt one of the five interventions identified in Health Canada’s Guideline 12 for the control of E.coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella in fermented sausages.

Traditional processes for making fermented sausage products like salami and summer sausage don’t allow for the use of heat over 33C. So meat processors had to find a way to be compliant – but without heat, which can change the taste and texture of the artisanal products.

Measuring ingredients to prepare sausage samples - web

Measuring ingredients to prepare sausage samples

That’s when the Ontario Independent Meat Processors (OIMP) together with three processors used funding received through Growing Forward 2 to approach the University of Guelph’s Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety (CRIFS) to help find a solution.

“We wanted to find a way for the industry to control pathogens in fermented sausages outside of the interventions approved by Health Canada,” explains Daphne Nuys-Hall, OIMP’s Technical Director. “We want our members to be able to continue offering artisanal quality product without compromising food safety and regulatory compliance.”

A CRIFS team lead by Mary Ann Ferrer developed a protocol that can decrease pathogens to Health Canada-approved levels by adding natural antimicrobials to the meat during the sausage-making process.

Miao Zhao Arash Abbasifar Mary Anne Ferrerin the lab - web

The CRIFS team from left: Miao Zhao, Arash Abbasifar, and Mary Anne Ferrer in the lab

The products are shelf-ready in only three to four weeks from the first day of processing, with no change in appearance or palatability, and the protocol is applicable to production batches of all sizes.

“Our goal was to develop a solution that processors can immediately and easily apply,” says Ferrer, who added that previous work of this nature, called “challenge studies”, had to be completed in the United States because there were no Canadian facilities with the required equipment and expertise available to industry for use.

Although the current project is specific to fermented sausage, these principles of pathogen control could also be applicable to other ready-to-eat meat products, cheese, and even fruits and vegetables in the future.

“This work will help us develop standard protocols for other products too. As food safety regulations get stricter, as they should, with zero tolerance for some pathogens, it’s extremely important to be able to control pathogens in food processing,” says Prof. Art Hill, Chair of the University of Guelph’s Food Science department.

Getting ready to test samples - web

Getting ready to test samples

According to Nuys-Hall, the work done through this project will help OIMP’s members retain their current markets, as well as expand into new ones in the future.

Project results will be presented at an upcoming OIMP industry day, as well as posted on the OIMP website at www.oimp.ca.

“The funding for this project allowed us to engage with the University of Guelph, which isn’t something we would have been able to do on our own. Challenge studies are expensive, so this lets us help our operators achieve their goals,” Nuys-Hall says.

Sausage making equipment in the CRIFS lab - web

Sausage making equipment in the CRIFS lab

“The benefit is for anyone making fermented sausage products using beef or pork, as well as for consumers, who can still buy artisanal quality fermented sausage, but do so knowing they’re consuming a safe product that conforms to Health Canada standards,” she adds.

This project was supported in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 programs in Ontario.