EFSA publishes opinion on MSM and non-MSM

Microbiological and chemical hazards, which are associated with mechanically separated meat (MSM) from poultry and swine, are similar to those of non-mechanically separated meat, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

EFSA’s claim was published as a scientific opinion late last month. However, it explained that the risk of microbial growth increased with the use of high-pressure production processes.

According to the opinion piece: "Microbiological and chemical risks arise from the contamination of raw materials and from poor hygiene practices during meat processing. However, high-pressure production processes increase the risk of microbial growth."

This is because such processes cause greater muscle fibre degradation, as well as an associated release of nutrients, which provide a "favourable environment" for bacterial growth. "In relation to chemical hazards, experts from EFSA’s panel on contaminants in the food chain advise that no specific chemical concerns are expected, provided that maximum residue levels are respected," it added.

MSM comes from the meat left on the carcase after the desired cuts have been removed, the remaining meat is then removed by mechanical methods to be used in other foods. EFSA explained that there are two types of MSM: a high-pressure MSM, which is paste-like and used in products such as hotdogs; and a low-pressure MSM, which looks like minced meat and is sometimes called 3mm mince.

An EFSA panel on biological hazards (BIOHAZ) discussed the various parameters available to distinguish MSM from non-MSM and found that, based on current data, calcium released from bones during processing "is the most appropriate chemical parameter".

As a result, EFSA scientists have developed a model that uses calcium levels to help identify MSM products. "This model will assist policy-makers, as well as food operators and inspectors, in differentiating MSM from non-MSM," it said.

Meanwhile, in order to improve the differentiation between MSM gained through low-pressure methods and hand de-boning, EFSA recommended "the use of specifically designed studies to collect data on potential indicators".

However, concern from companies using high pressure pasteurisation (HPP), which is used to destroy pathogens, has been raised and an industry spokeswoman told MeatInfo.co.uk: “The high pressure fabrication of MSM is unrelated to HPP, high pressure processing, the post-packaging step in which ultra high water pressure (hydrostatic pressure) of up to 87,000 psi is applied to finished product to destroy pathogens and spoilage organisms.”