Consumers require meat that is fresh and free from contamination. The challenge has been to design technologies that achieve maximum microbial safety while minimising effects on nutritional and quality attributes. This review specifically investigates the microbial inactivation processes of a number of different emerging technologies with the potential to improve meat microbiological safety and shelf life. Irradiation is probably the ultimate solution, but there is still widespread public opposition to its use. Mild to moderate technologies include ultrasound, ozone, UV irradiation, infra-red radiation and pulsed light at various wavelengths. Some technologies, principally applied to improve meat quality, may also increase microbial food safety including high pressure processing and pressure-assisted thermal sterilization, electrical treatments that include pulsed electric fields and thermal treatments including ohmic heating, microwave or radio-frequency heating and hydrodynamic shock wave treatment. Most of these technologies are at an experimental, or pilot-scale proof of concept stage. Therefore, in the short-term these technologies will generally be used as one component in a combination of treatments (i.e. as a hurdle) or as a minimum processing strategy, used in conjunction with conventional methods. Long-term success will depend on their cost-effectiveness, ease of implementation, customer acceptance and approval by regulatory authorities.
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