What are the hygiene hazards when packing meat?

Meat that is being packed can become contaminated if:

  • the carton liners are contaminated
  • the meat is dropped
  • the bench surfaces that the product is sorted on become contaminated
  • it is packed with contaminated product.

Bacterial contamination of product can reduce the shelf life of meat products and cause consumers to become ill.

Meat packers must minimise the risk of bacterial contamination of packed meat by ensuring:

  • the sorting tables are clean
  • that contaminated product is not packed
  • their hands and aprons are clean and do not contaminate the product
  • at no time do the packers touch the cardboard (EU requirement)
  • they follow the dropped meat procedures
  • the carton liners prevent the meat from touching the carton.

Any meat that is dropped on the floor must be treated in accordance with the dropped meat procedure. This will involve isolating the product on a special table covered with disposable plastic and trimming the contaminated area according to the workplace procedure.


Dropped meat table – Photo needed

A sample of all packed meat cartons are routinely inspected to ensure the product meets workplace and customer specifications. This is called a boneless meat reinspection procedure and is carried out in a separate area of the boning room.

Boneless meat reinspection – QA inspection photo needed

Physical contamination of meat can also occur at this point. Packers must ensure that cartons do not contain items such as:

  • pens
  • jewellery
  • boning hooks

As well as introducing bacteria into the cartons, these products can represent a food safety hazard to consumers, especially if the product is going to be minced.

In many meat works the use of a metal detector is part of the boning room equipment.


Metal detection machine- Photo needed

Packaging materials have to be free from contamination prior to being used. For this reason packaging material store rooms must be kept clean and tidy. All packaging materials must be stored off the ground. The storeroom shown below is neat and clean and all the materials are stored off the ground and away from walls.

Packaging materials store – Photo needed

What are WHS hazards associated with packing meat?

Meat packers have to be aware of manual handling hazards when packing and moving cartons of meat. Packers must always use the correct manual handling techniques covered in the training material for AMPA204 Follow safe work policies and procedures.

Meat packers also often work in close proximity to meat slicers. Packers must be aware of what the slicer is doing with the knife when they select cuts from the sorting table.