The global meat packaging industry is today governed by the strictest of guidelines. Safety and hygiene issues have forced themselves to the top of the agenda following a series of health scares, and companies have had to fight hard to regain consumer confidence.
Now US meat packager National Beef has taken things into its own hands. The firm has implemented new food safety technology designed to further protect consumers from harmful bacteria that may be present in meat, including E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria. The technology, branded under the name Activin, involves the use of an activated form of lactoferrin, a natural protein that is credited with protecting infants from bacteria while their immune system is developing.
Lactoferrin is also naturally present in beef. By discovering how to activate the lactoferrin molecule, scientists were able to mimic its bacteria-fighting properties on the surface of beef.
"We are fully committed to providing consumers with the safest, most wholesome, and most nutritious beef possible," said National Beef CEO John Miller. "The ability to use a natural ingredient to further protect consumers against harmful bacteria is a significant step not only for National Beef, but for our entire industry as well."
According to Miller, Activin will be included as the final step in the company's existing food safety interventions. The system includes an electrostatic application of Activin, followed by a water rinse to detach any remaining pathogenic bacteria from the meat surface. The company says that research proves Activin can protect beef against E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria, and more than 30 other types of pathogenic bacteria. National Beef also claims that the procedure does not influence the nutritional qualities of beef products or affect its taste, texture, color, or aging qualities.
Activin was researched and developed by aLF Ventures of Salt Lake City, Utah. It has been fully approved for use during processing by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). It also has received GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Activin is a new addition to the interventions already in place at National Beef processing facilities. These interventions, part of National Beef's BioLogic Food Safety System, include steam hock vacuums to remove particles from the hind of the carcass, multiple steam vacuums to remove additional particles and thermal pasteurisation carcass wash.
National Beef processes and markets fresh beef, case-ready beef, and beef by-products for domestic and international markets. The company is one of the largest beef processors in the world. Last year's sales exceeded €2.6 billion.