77 percent of supermarket deli meats fail food safety standards, study

New research from the University of Adelaide has found that hygienic food handling together with standard food safety protocols are not being practiced at many supermarket delicatessens across Adelaide.

Final year veterinary science students obtained 174 samples of various ready-to-eat meats from supermarket delis across the greater Adelaide area and found that 134 of them, (77 percent) contained bacteria levels that failed to meet food standards guidelines.

"Although no recognised food poisoning pathogens such as Escherichia coli or Salmonella species were found on these meats, the high bacterial count suggests that hygiene has been compromised," said Professor Michael Reichel, Professor of Veterinary Public Health in the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.

"Such out-of-control processes are also susceptible to contamination with serious food poisoning organisms."

The products were selected at random with the results finding that sliced salami, fritz and roast pork harboured the highest proportions of unsatisfactory bacterial counts. Ham and chicken meats had lower levels of bacteria, however two thirds of the products tested were still outside the food standards guidelines.

According to professor Reichel, 15.5 percent of samples showed the presence of coliform bacteria and some samples had total bacterial counts of more than 108 or 100 million per gram – representing "overt spoilage".

"The presence of coliform would indicate really poor hygiene such as people not washing their hands after going to the toilet," he says. "These levels of bacterial counts tell us that storage conditions, product handling and turnover should all be investigated."

Reichel says that ready-to-eat deli meats are consumed daily by up to half of Australia's population, and as such need to adhere to standard food safety protocols.

"People have a right to expect that the product they buy on the weekend should last through the following week, not go slimy in a couple of days," he said.


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