Current meat safety legislation and its opportunities and hurdles for innovative approaches

22. september 2022

In June the paper titled Meat safety legislation and its opportunities and hurdles for innovative approaches: a review was published in the journal Food Control.

Background and relation to the Robutcher project

Task 1.5 in Robutcher deals with challenges and hurdles related to end-user and authority acceptance and evolved into two main activities namely a legislation text review and an in-depth interview with stakeholders. The legislation text review is presented here. The Robucher innovation project aims to replace the conventional line production in abattoirs, with parallel production in autonomous “meat factory cells”. The current meat safety legislation is conserved by conventional methodology and hence can impose hurdles for innovative approaches in slaughter techniques.

“Legislation paper” – where did we start?

We wanted to look for both innovation friendly formulations and hurdles in current red meat legislation, guidelines, and principles. Where we identified hurdles in the legislative text, we suggested new formulations that could increase the innovative capacity. Policymakers may consider that rules or legislation should be prescriptive, meaning that the rules clearly prescribe the expected outcome or the wanted direction of development. However, quite often the objects may comply with the rules, but still the conditions or actions do not achieve what was expected. On the opposite, disruptive or innovative systems such as the Robutchers’ Meat Factory Cell concept, may fulfil legislator’s intentions better than conventional solutions but still not fully comply with the legislation. Therefore, objective criteria and control of functionality are needed. This approach requires transparent surveillance or control of measurable traits (Blagojevic et al., 2021).

Material and method

The material was restricted to red meat legislations and the scope was from lairage to dressing of an animals’ body into edible parts. The legislation was analyzed for normative formulations that may make non-intentional hurdles to suppliers, end-users, and authorities. We identified issues with normative formulations, and these were listed, and alternative functional demands were suggested with scientific references where available. The legislation texts from four jurisdictional perspectives were studied i) worldwide global guidelines and principles according to Codex Alimentarius and FAO, ii) EU legislation in Europe/ EEA, iii) legislation in New Zealand and iv) legislation in USA.


We found that the global guidelines and principles were presenting few hurdles for innovation and an example is from the Codex Alimentarius Code of Hygiene Practice for Meat (CAC/RCP58–2005) stating that “All areas and facilities where bodies of animals are dressed or meat may be present should be designed and con-structed so that they facilitate GHP, and contamination of meat is minimized to the greatest extent practicable”. This framework provides no hurdles for innovation and different systems can be applied and still be in concordance with the codes, although the aim is a vision without objective criterium.

From the EU legislation we found several formulations that can impose hurdles for innovation. An example is from the (EC) No 853/2004 about the legislative demand on the number of cuts a carcass can be divided into in a slaughterhouse. We suggested a new formulation stating that the carcass and relevant parts must be presented for post mortem inspection so that a holistic examination can be undertaken and traceability upon and after approval is maintained. The review showed that text formulations used in meat safety regulations have many similarities in Europe, New Zealand and USA, and also share some challenges.

Importance of an up-to-date legislation

The overarching objective of meat safety legislation is to protect human health. When legislative text is formulated, it is based on the existing systems and it has a conservative approach. We can say “first innovation then legislation”. That said, it is important to include more of the concept of functional demands and objective criteria in the legislative text development so a wider variety of technological systems and methods can be applied without conflicting with the legislative demand. The suggested alternative text formulations presented in the review could provide better opportunities for innovation and should be considered for legislative text improvements.