Food safety and quality are the primary concerns of consumers and the recent BSE crisis, but also the recurring food poisoning cases and the dispute on OGM derived food, have undermined public confidence on intensive or industrial food producing systems. Consumers are turning to "traditional" products. Traditional and/or organic agro-food production systems, besides responding to the requirements of a sustainable agriculture, can be important means to secure a sufficient income for people working in rural areas not suited for intensive agriculture.
Small producers experience technical and financial difficulties in complying with official food safety regulations. Hygiene standards, in particular, generally defined for large processing plants, are not always compatible which such small production units. This difficulty has created acute problems, particularly in the countries of south Europe. It is crucial, therefore, to give traditional producers the means to produce safe products, as it is the only way to insure the survival of local economies with positive effects on employment and environmental protection.
The objective of the project is to evaluate and improve safety of traditional dry sausages from the producers to the consumers while preserving their typical quality.
The objective will be pursued according to the following plan:
- Traditional workshops in different European regions (France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Slovakia) will be studied as for the know-how adopted, the links existing between raw material producers and processors, the sanitising procedures, the characteristics and the names of the products. The buyers-consumers of traditional sausages will be characterised and their habits of preservation and consumption will be studied.
- The hazards associated with traditional sausages and the critical control points (CCP) of the entire chain, consumption included, will be identified to ensure safety and quality of traditional sausages from production to consumption.
- The bacterial communities constituting the dominant positive bacterial flora in traditional workshops and sausages for each country will be identified and quantified. The dominant strains will be selected, with the aim of not changing traditional quality characteristics, for safety (non-amine producing), competitiveness and ability to colonise the workshop, ability to grow in the products and for synergy between strains.
- The safety of products and the hygiene of workshops will be improved and assured by directed microbial ecology which is based on: the introduction of targeting disinfecting procedures towards spoilage and pathogenic flora, while preserving technological flora; the development of protective flora growing in biofilm and protecting the workshop from the colonisation of pathogenic bacteria; the development of starter cultures that colonise the products and prevent the growth of pathogenic and spoilage bacteria in products.
- Aprocess, that improves sanitary quality and keeps sensorial quality of the products, will be validated. The safety will be certified for the microbiological (pathogenic and spoilage flora) and the chemical (biogenic amines and lipid oxidation products) sides and the quality will be assessed by sensory analyses. The final result will be the elaboration of a guide of good hygienic practice that will be explained directly to the producers by organising a specific workshop in each country.
- Recommendations for consumers for better handling of the products will be established. A brochure with developed information will be designed and distributed via the producers at the market level. Very concise recommendations will be proposed for the label on the products. All information will be diffused via the resource centre in a specific web site in different languages.
- Safety risks on sausage production chain will be known both as nature and as magnitude.
- Processing conditions combining HACCP and directed microbial ecology and capable of assuring safety and quality of traditional dry fermented sausages will be developed.
- Good hygienic procedures will be elaborated and disseminated to producers.
- Habits of preservation and consumption of consumers will be established and, therefore, recommendations for proper handling will be provided.