Why this odd three-day rule for freezing meat?
An email arrived from Tom Dant, managing director of Gill Marsh Forecourts. He wrote: “Strange query really. We recently had an annual visit from our local environmental health officer. We had a disagreement over one of our processes regarding the freezing and using of fresh meat.
“We have always for many years frozen any fresh meat that is on its use-by date on that day and then defrosted it and cooked it at a later date and then used it in our sandwiches.
“We have followed the advice of the Food Standards Agency website Bulk freezing of ambient and chilled foods | Food Standards Agency.”
But he added that their EHO had come back to them and told them that they had to throw all their frozen meat away and they quoted this: “It is an offence to sell food or use it as an ingredient once it has passed the ‘Use By’ date. However caterers are permitted to freeze bought in foods before they
reach the ‘Use By’ date providing they are able to demonstrate they have a robust system in place to ensure that such food is stored and handled safely.
“A robust system should incorporate the following rules: Label the food with the day/month/year that it was frozen (freeze at least 3 days before the ‘Use by’ date). When taking the food out of the freezer, label it with a defrost date and defrost in the refrigerator.
“Always use up the food within 24 hours of defrosting.”
The EHO cited (Regulation EC 852/2004 Article 5 and Article 4(2) Annex II Chapter IX Paragraph 1)
Tom says he has never heard of this three-day rule; that they always do defrost in the refrigerator and that, when the meat is subsequently cooked, they have a further three days to sell it.
“Their main points are that we are selling people out of date food, which we categorically denied, as we are freezing the product and then cooking it we are changing a raw product into a cooked product and therefore the new cooked product would have a shelf life of three days.
“I understand it’s not a normal request, I was just wondering if you had any contacts that may be able to help me with this issue. We have taken it back to our wholesaler A.F Blakemore, who are investigating as they believe we are correct. I have also spoken to a few catering trained people who say they were trained our way when doing their courses at college, so it has left us very confused!”
I went first to the press office of the Environmental Health Department but they said I would need to take it up with the Foods Standards Agency.
I sent it on to the FSA and a spokesperson responded: “It is difficult to comment on the specific scenario highlighted without first discussing it with the business and local authority concerned. However, in general, Food Business Operators (FBO) may avoid food waste by freezing surplus chilled or ambient foods, for later use. Food with a use-by date must be frozen before the expiration of its durability date. This would include fresh meat. It is the food business’s responsibility to demonstrate that freezing, defrosting and handling prior to subsequent processing e.g. cooking is carried out safely. Detailed FSA guidance on bulk freezing of ambient and chilled foods is available.”
She added: “Cooking food properly will destroy any pathogens or other microorganisms that might be present and it becomes a different product which requires a new shelf life. It is the food business’s responsibility to set an appropriate shelf life/use-by date for the cooked product based on shelf life studies or, for smaller businesses, generic advice on storage of cooked, chilled foods such as Safer Food Better Business.”
This really didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know and her reply made no mention of this weird three-day rule. Does anybody else know? (And if you can actually find that specific piece of EC regulation, chapter 9, paragraph 1, you’re a better man than I am.)
Don’t go rashly charging into 2030
In the Nov/Dec printed issue I asked if anyone could recommend an EV charger supplier. This prompted an email from Keith Guppy of Fuel Supply Solutions who says he has researched the subject in depth for a variety of clients, both forecourt owners (primarily the groups) and potential investors.
He says: “What we have learnt is that this is quite a complex issue for a number of reasons. I would recommend that before any retailer commits to installing EV charging they have an independent survey/report prepared by experts in the provision/installation of charging on a forecourt.”
He adds that there are companies that will provide a report with:
* The demographic need in the trading and transient traffic with numbers of EV vehicles registered etc
* How the site would need to ‘hook up’ to the grid, nearest sub station etc, what the retailers would need to invest on site before a charger would work
* What are the health and safety implications given the fuel tanks and potential location of a charger
* What sort of charger would work best on the site, given the demographic and location (i.e. main road, community site, etc)
* Would a ‘hosted’ solution work best economically or would the retailer make more from owning the equipment and have direct control on pricing etc.
* And most importantly the overall costings for these options versus the returns
As Keith points out: “Technology is moving rapidly and the recent announcement of 2030 should focus retailers’ minds and whilst the ‘wait and see’ approach might still be valid some network planning would in our opinion be advisable. If anyone wants details I can forward them.”
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org