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NCCEH Student Project Award 2014 - W Lao

Safety of Chinese Roast Pork as Determined by the Water Activity of the Skin and Cavity

W Lao, B Sidhu, F Shaw
BC Institute of Technology: Environmental Health

Objectives: The increase in unfamiliar ethnic foods and the lack of guidelines available to evaluate their safety makes it increasingly challenging for Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) to ensure food safety. Chinese barbecued meats, for example, frequently undergo improper temperature control, causing health concerns for public health authorities. However, due to the limited studies conducted, the health implications associated with temperature abuse of this ethnic food is currently unclear. Hence, the following study assessed the safety of Chinese barbecued meats, specifically roast pork, at ambient temperature (21°C).

Methods: The temperature and water activity (aw) of 30 samples of roast pork skin and cavity were measured. A one sample t-test was conducted to assess whether or not the aw of roast pork surfaces are below 0.85, a standard for safe display of food at room temperature. In addition, the paired-sample t-test was conducted to determine whether a difference exists between the aw of roast pork skin and cavity.

Results: The mean temperature that roast pork was displayed at in retailers was 30.7°C and the mean skin and cavity aw were 0.70±0.013 and 0.81±0.009, respectively. The aw of the roast pork skin and cavity were found to be statistically lower than the standard, 0.85 (p-value < 0.00001 and at 0.001338, respectively). In addition, statistically significant difference was found between the mean aw of the roast pork skin and cavity (p-value < 0.00001).

Conclusion: These results indicate that the whole roast pork can be safely displayed at ambient temperature provided that it adheres to specific food safety and sanitation criteria. These results can aid health authorities with guidelines development to assist PHIs with inspections and educate operators to ensure food safety.