Ad Hoc Group on Raw, Rare and Low Temperature Cooked Foods meeting: 16 July 2012

Summary of the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Group on Raw, Rare and Low Temperature Cooked Foods

At this meeting the group reviewed the horizon scanning survey presented to ACMSF in January 2012, considered its terms of reference, work plan, some definitions (low temperature cooking, sous vide, rare) and microbiological data requirements. The group also discussed what the output of their deliberations should be.

Review of the horizon scanning survey presented to ACMSF in January 2012
The group was reminded that its origin was from the presentation provided to the ACMSF in January 2012 on the findings of an information gathering exercise concerning emerging microbiological issues in the catering sector. The two most important issues that were identified for consideration by the Committee were:

  • The risks associated with foods cooked at low temperatures (such as those used in sous vide or water bath cooking)
  • The microbiological safety of meat served raw or rare

A summary of how the information gathering exercise was carried out was provided. It was explained that the outcome of the exercise was a snapshot of the catering industry views rather than a fully representative investigation.

Terms of reference
Following discussion the group agreed its terms of reference. They are:

To assess the microbiological risks to consumers associated with:

  • use of low temperature cooking/slow cooking
  • foods of animal origin served raw
  • foods of animal origin served rare
  • and to identify any gaps in the data that would assist in a risk assessment
    Scope: any sector that uses low temperature/slow cooking or produces raw and/or rare food.

Work plan
The draft work plan circulated by the secretariat was accepted with minor changes.

The group considered definitions for the following: low temperature cooking, sous vide, and rare.

Microbiological data requirements
The group indicated that it would like to consider data for cooking at less than 70oC, going down as low as possible, in terms of log reductions for various pathogens. The organisms to be considered would be bacteria and include all the major vegetative pathogens - Salmonella; VTEC E. coli; Campylobacter and Listeria, but would exclude the spore-forming bacteria, for example clostridia which are not destroyed by cooking at 70oC for 2 minutes (70 for 2). It was noted that the food matrix can also affect the risk and would need to be considered. Viruses and protozoa might have to be referred to in the group’s report, but only in terms of referring them for further discussion by other groups.

Output from the subgroup
The group agreed that the risk assessment would cover how to control the risk for low temperature cooking at the same level as a currently acceptable 70 for 2. For raw and rare food a decision as to whether the method agreed by ACMSF for a formal risk assessment should be applied would be taken at a later meeting.