New guidance on vacuum-packed food

The Food Standards Agency has published new guidance and a factsheet on the safe production of vacuum- and modified atmosphere-packed foods.

The guidance has been developed for small businesses and environmental health officers to tackle the problem of Clostridium botulinum.

The FSA said although vacuum packing techniques increase the shelf-life of chilled foods by removing air, certain bacteria including C. botulinum are still able to grow. C. botulinum is a bacterium that can produce a very harmful toxin that can cause a fatal form of food poisoning - foodborne botulism. It added that, therefore, it is important that appropriate controls are in place to keep food safe.

The FSA guidance sets out processes, such as heat treatment, pH and salt levels, that should be used if food businesses are setting a shelf-life of more than 10 days.