Chilling is cool, others are not: FSA survey looks at perceptions of meat treatments

chicken_blogMuch of consumers’ resistance to new decontamination techniques for meat may stem from the lack of adequate information on the procedures, according to a new study from the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) Food Standards Agency (FSA).

More than 2,000 people from around the U.K. participated in the survey, which was part of FSA’s program to reduce Campylobacter on raw poultry. Participants were asked about their level of comfort with various meat decontamination techniques, including rapid chilling, hot water or steam, lactic acid and ozone (see the definitions for these techniques here).

Overall, participants were most accepting of rapid chilling, with 51 percent finding it acceptable immediately. Acceptability jumped to 69 percent when participants were told meat that had been rapidly chilled still could be safely frozen after purchase. Participants were split on hot water or steam treatments, with 41 percent finding it acceptable and 40 percent finding it unacceptable.

However, participants were immediately skeptical of lactic acid and ozone treatments, with 15 percent indicating lactic acid was acceptable and 12 percent indicating ozone treatment was acceptable. Once researchers explained what lactic acid treatment was, the acceptability rating jumped to 54 percent.

Researchers also noted many people were concerned about how treating raw meat would affect its taste. The use of the word “acid” also was very impactful, as many people assumed it meant a chemical was used. However, once it was explained lactic acid is a natural substance, people became more accepting.

The results will be used by the U.K.’s Joint Working Group on Campylobacter, which is a collaboration between the government and the industry, to cut down on Campylobacter while properly informing consumers and keeping their confidence.

“This research is extremely helpful in informing our efforts to tackle Campylobacter. We have to ensure that whatever interventions we might adopt, they must not damage consumer confidence in food,” said FSA Head of Foodborne Diseases Strategy Bob Martin in a statement. “The findings suggest that providing clear information about the treatments, such as what they are and how they work, would have a positive impact on the public’s acceptability of new treatments such as these.”

The study also found consumers often are unaware that different types of food poisoning exist (Salmonella was the only pathogen “spontaneously mentioned”). However, Campylobacter is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.K. This fact surprised many participants, most of whom had never heard of the bacteria.

Have some extra time? Read the full report here.

Comments are closed.