Novel in-pack process to reduce microbial load of packaged meats

Mari Ann  Tørngren

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Novel in-pack process to reduce microbial load of packaged meats

MEATPACK project aims to develop an energy efficient, low cost, zero residue technology to eliminate pathogens in meat products.

Despite strict safety and hygiene standards, meat and poultry products can be, still today, vehicles for cases of foodborne illness. This highlights the need for effective decontamination to ensure consumer protection and confidence in meat. Additionally, meat processors are constantly striving to lengthen product shelf-life.

The aim of MEATPACK project, launched in December in IRIS Dublin facilities, is to develop a novel in-pack non-thermal plasma process to reduce microbial load in packed meats, thereby ensuring meat safety and extending shelf-life without compromising nutritional or quality aspects.

Consumer aversion to irradiation and chemical preservatives have opened up a technological gap where innovation is required for the development of novel food preservation systems.

MEATPACK project partner representatives during the kick off, in IRIS Dublin.

Plasma-based technology for in-pack meat preservation.
Cold atmospheric pressure plasma is electrically energised matter, composed of highly reactive species including gas molecules and charged particles. It has been used for surface modification, water disinfection and biomedical applications. It offers a convenient way of treating products inside the closed packaging material, thus eliminating the risk of potential post-processing recontamination of produce.

Experienced research performers and industry representatives from the meat supply chain form the MEATPACK consortium: Stephens Fresh Foods Ltd (UK), Embutidos Daza SL (Spain), The Food Machinery Company (FMC), Kamea Electronics SRO (Slovakia), Holfeld Plastics Limited (Ireland), Irish Country Meats (Ireland), Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland), Teknologisk Institut_DMRI (Denmark) and Innovació i Recerca Industrial i Sostenible (Spain).

During the first year of this 2 year R&D project funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission, a laboratory test-rig will be used to study the critical plasma control parameters and packaging design that maximise the antimicrobial effect and quality retention. During the second year, an in-pack plasma system will be built to pre-competitive prototype level and subsequently validated in industry for meat pathogen reduction and shelf-life extension.