Thks for FSANZ link. I had noticed it previously but had assumed that a 2001 Guideline document must by now have a later official revision (somewhere). Apparently not. It is curious that the document contains very little numerical discussion regarding the included SPC limits and no end-list of references.
As previously noted, the FSANZ, SPC guidelines seeem closely linked to the UK, PHLS limits issued in 2000, the latter have now been updated by the HPA guidelines of 2009. It’s disappointing that the FSANZ document didn’t include a similarly useful table of related product categories.
ba1 - FSANZ 2001 micro. guidelines RTE foods.pdf 68.59KB
ba2 - UK,PHLS,micro.guidelines RTE foods, 2000.pdf 148.09KB
ba3 - UK,HPA (ex PHLS), 2009 RTE micro. guidelines.pdf 998.98KB
I have extracted a few relevant (IMO) comments relating to SPC from the above documents.
The Aerobic Colony Count (ACC), also known as the Total Viable Count or Standard Plate Count, is an indicator of quality, not safety, and cannot directly contribute towards a safety assessment of ready-to-eat food.
An examination of the microbiological quality of a food should not be based on SPC alone. The significance of high (unsatisfactory) SPC cannot truly be made without identifying the microorganisms that predominate or without other microbiological testing.
(The table in FSANZ link implies (by omission) that all SPC values are considered "non- hazardous", somewhat debatable IMO).
Immediate action in response to high ACCs is not usually warranted except for shelf-stable canned or bottled food products immediately after opening (Category 1, Table 5).The level will depend initially on the type and duration of processing that the food has received during production (see Table 5). Thereafter the level will depend on the way it is handled and stored. For example, immediately after a pasteurisation heat process, products will normally have an ACC of below 10^4 cfu/g, whilst a more rigorous heat process such as grilling, roasting or baking will result in counts below 10^3 cfu/g.
I deduce from yr recent posts that all the components in yr product are fully baked in the process. Hence > level 1 in micro.limit table.
I noticed that some of the States in Australia (well, at least one ) seem to have further updated their controls (eg with respect to L.mono) and adopted more “aggressive” action plans as compared to the FSANZ document, for example, here is the action plan from a NSW viewpoint in their short but rather neat micro. publication.
ba4 - NSW micro.quality rte foods 2009.png 129.17KB
ba5 - NSW,2009,microbiological_quality_guide_for_RTE_food.pdf 134.24KB
It is interesting to compare survey data where both level1 and level2 products were assessed for SPC (most surveys unfortunately seem to exclude SPC measurements). Results are limited but suggest more control is required over the additional stages in “Level2” processes. A subsequent survey in 2010 further confirmed the necessity.
ba6 - South Australia, survey 2007 micro. quality sweet baked goods.pdf 133KB
ba7 - South Australia, Food Act report, 2010.pdf 603.81KB
(see appendix 10)
From a FSANZ microbiological POV, yr single datum is presumably (quality) unsatisfactory with respect to SPC and “borderline” for HPA (see their action comment pg27) . Any question regarding safety would require more data which you have indicated to be satisfactory for the sample under discussion. I hope you have some accumulated history / satisfactory end-product data for further process runs.
Rgds / Charles.C