Store Freshly Cooked Sliced Meats Safely
The Health Protection Agency is reminding consumers about advice on the safe storage of sliced-at-the-counter cooked meats.
Current advice from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) states that the vast majority of perishable chilled foods, including sliced-at-the counter cooked meats, should be stored according to the retailer's instructions or, in the absence of any instructions, eaten within 48 hours.
A study carried out in the North West, initiated by the Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside Food Liaison Group and the Health Protection Agency's Food and Environmental Microbiology Services North West, reemphasises the importance of using these meats as soon as possible after purchase.
The study looked for levels of the food poisoning bacterium listeria (Listeria monocytogenes) in freshly sliced cooked meats purchased from a number of retailers. Laboratory tests found that 7.3% of samples were contaminated on their day of purchase.
In a few cases (0.4%) the meat sample had levels of this organism which failed to comply with food safety legislation. This could have been potentially hazardous, particularly to people vulnerable to listeria such as the elderly, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. Listeria is particularly dangerous in pregnancy as it can cause a mild 'flu-like' illness which is not serious to the mother but can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth or severe illness in a newborn child.
Listeria is unusual because it not only grows at normal room temperature and up to about 40