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Adelaide's bacteria-ridden supermarket deli meat

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Most ready-to-eat deli meats purchased from Adelaide supermarket delicatessens had bacterial levels failing to meet food standard guidelines, according to a University of Adelaide study.

The study undertaken by final year veterinary students found that of the 174 samples taken, 134 – or 77% – had bacterial levels failing to meet food standard guidelines.

Professor of Veterinary Public Health in the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Michael Reichel said today that the findings were shocking considering the strict food handling standards in place.

“You always expect a decent food handling and processing of slicing it up ready to be sold in the supermarket,” he said.

“It was found that these ready-to-eat meats to have a slightly higher microbiological level count and higher amount of spoilage (than prepackaged meats).”

Although no food poisoning pathogens such as Salmonella or Escherichia coli were present, a large percent of the sample – 15.5% – had a presence of coliform bacteria – which may show the presence of faecal matter. Some samples had total bacterial counts of more than 108 or 100 million per gram – representing “overt spoilage”.

Reichel believes that poor food handling practices were to blame for such high findings.

“The presence of coliform would indicate really poor hygiene such as people not washing their hands after going to the toilet.”

In the wake of such shocking findings, prepacked meats such as ham, salami and chicken may become a much preferred alternate source for daily consumption, according to Reichel.

“The pre-packaged food, generally, seem to be much better so if people are worried I would strongly suggest to buy the pre-packaged food that generally seems to be better looked after and probably last longer in your fridge than the deli sliced stuff.

The study’s results will be presented on Wednesday at this week’s Australian Veterinary Association Annual Conference at the Perth Convention Centre.

The study was carried out last year by final-year (sixth-year) veterinary science students as part of their veterinary public health rotation. The randomly selected supermarkets have not been identified.

Sliced salami, fritz and roast pork had the highest proportions of unsatisfactory bacterial counts. Ham and chicken meats had lower levels of bacteria, but two-thirds of those samples still failed to meet satisfactory standards.

 

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