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Evaluations: red meat abattoirs

From March to June 2006, the NSW Food Authority undertook a study evaluating the effectiveness of regulation of NSW red meat abattoirs. These process beef, cattle, sheep and pigs. Additional microbiological sampling was conducted from December 2006 to January 2007 and in December 2007.

Mandatory HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point) controls were introduced into meat abattoirs in 1996. These requirements are set out in the NSW meat food safety scheme, which the Food Authority and abattoirs jointly manage. HACCP requirements are central to the effective regulation of NSW meat abattoirs.

Regulatory milestones for red meat abattoirs

The objectives of the evaluation were to:

  • assess company-based inspection systems
  • benchmark industry food safety practices and establish a NSW domestic red meat carcase hygiene baseline
  • check compliance with mandatory HACCP requirements
  • review the regulatory framework and industry guidelines to identify any areas needing work.

The method included:

  • on-site assessment of written food safety programs
  • review of monitoring documentation
  • verifying food safety management practices
  • compliance checks
  • microbiological analysis of carcase samples from all 16 domestic abattoirs.

Abattoirs were assessed in 10 key categories and 100 beef, 323 sheep and 76 pig carcase samples were taken.

The evaluation established that the NSW domestic red meat industry is:

  • strongly committed to food safety
  • aware of national legislation for producing safe meat
  • in general, managing food safety well.

In January 2008, each abattoir was provided with a detailed report. Opportunities for system enhancements were noted where necessary and an action plan is being rolled out.

Details of the method and results are available in the report below.  

Table of contents
1. Background
2. Method
2.1 All abattoirs were assessed in ten (10) key categories
2.2 Surveying meat temperatures at load-out
2.3 Testing beef, sheep and pig carcases for microbiological indicators of hygiene
3. Results and discussion
3.1 Abattoirs process ten (10) times more sheep than beef
3.2 Abattoirs are committed to food safety and know about food safety requirements
3.3 Industry performance across seven (7) food safety management categories
3.4 Industry scored, on average, 71% for carcase processing
3.5 Carcase and portion meat, not offal, more likely to comply with temperature requirements at load-out
3.6 Generally, low levels of bacteria found on beef, sheep and pig carcases
4. Future directions
List of figures
Figure 1. Regulatory milestones for red meat abattoirs
Figure 2. NSW domestic red meat abattoirs industry score card
Figure 3. NSW domestic red meat abattoirs industry process control score card
List of tables
Table 1. NSW domestic red meat production volumes
Table 2. NSW domestic beef and sheepmeat processing details
Table 3. Profiling the Meat Safety Officer system.
Table 4. Beef carcase hygiene results
Table 5. Sheep carcase hygiene results
Table 6. Pig carcase hygiene results