Consumers continue to demand more convenience with food products, including meat. Safety is a primary concern with precooked, ready-to-eat meat products. Meat processors strive to develop processed meat items to meet consumer demand and increase meat consumption.
Many different food additives are available to enhance flavor, inhibit microorganisms and preserve quality in meat.One such additive not in general use is sodium lactate, which is a neutral salt of lactic acid. An advantage of this additive is that it is perceived as “natural” or “organic” by some advocacy groups, as opposed to an artificially produced additive. Sodiumlactate has been shown to extend shelf life and enhance flavor without altering other product characteristics.
Few uncured, precooked pork items are available for consumers. To test the value of sodium lactate as an additive in manufacturing precooked pork roasts, which would be an additional meat item for the marketplace, a study was done that compared sodium lactate and sodium tripolyphosphate, used alone and in combination.
Sodium tripolyphosphate, a common additive, is used in meat products to increase juiciness and texture.Sodium lactate and sodium tripolyphosphate were incorporated into boneless fresh pork leg muscles. The muscles were netted to form 6- to 8-pound roasts cooked to 155 degrees F internal temperature in a smokehouse. Roasts were chilled to 40 degrees F and sliced into 1/4-inch sections that were vacuum packaged. Packages were stored at 40 degrees F for sampling at zero, 4, 6 and 8 weeks.
Roasts containing sodium tripolyphosphate had higher cooking yields (83 percent) compared with 69 percent yield of roasts with no phosphates. The cooked roasts containing phosphates retained more moisture (70 percent) than roasts without phosphates (67 percent). Fat and protein content were lower in roasts containing phosphates (3.4 percent fat,24.2 percent protein) than in roasts without phosphates (3.9percent fat, 26.4 percent protein).
Tensile strength necessary to shear the slices was higher in roasts containing phosphates. Roasts with phosphates were also lighter, redder and bluer, and thus more appealing, than roasts without phosphates. Sodium lactate did not change texture, lightness and redness, but increased levels caused slightly bluer hues on slice surfaces.
Sensory scores increased for salt flavor and off-flavor and decreased for pork flavor with increased levels of sodium lactate. The use of phosphates decreased oxidative rancidity during the 8 weeks of refrigerated storage but did not affect growth of microorganisms during refrigerated storage. Higher levels of sodium lactate inhibited psychrotrophic microorganisms in the precooked pork more than lower levels of sodium lactate through 4 weeks of storage at 40 degrees F. The psychrotrophic microorganisms are of food safety concern because they will grow and may produce toxins at refrigerated temperatures.
This study helped add information about use of sodium lactate as a food additive for pre-cooked meat products. The proper combination of additives, including sodium lactate and sodium tripolyphosphate, can improve product safety and palatability while minimizing product changes during storage.(This article was published in the spring 2000 issue of