Compositional requirements and the addition of sulphur dioxide in meat and meat products

The following information provides advice to butcher shops, meat processors or manufacturers and enforcement agencies on the compositional requirements and the use of sulphur dioxide (a preservative) in meat and meat products and compliance with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code).

The use and potential for misuse of sulphur dioxide in the meat industry as a preservative for meat products, especially mince has been an avenue that regulators and public health officers have routinely pursued over time.

When and where sulphur dioxide may be used

  • In relation to raw meat, poultry and game meat which includes minced meat:
    Maximum of 500 mg/kg of sulphur dioxide and sodium and potassium sulphites is permitted in sausages and sausage meat containing raw unprocessed meat.
  • For rissoles and hamburgers:
    Notwithstanding the above, sulphur dioxide is permitted, if rissoles or hamburger patties are made from or contain sausage meat. For example hamburger meat patties and rissoles made with compliant (as above) sausage meat should never exceed 500 mg/kg of preservative, and those made only with mince meat, should have no preservative.

Compositional requirements

Sausage meat in patties and rissoles must meet the compositional requirements of sausage meat being:

  1. no less than 500 g/kg of fat free meat flesh
  2. the proportion of fat in sausage must be no more than 500 g/kg of the fat free meat flesh content.

If a pattie/rissole is advertised as '100% beef', the products are not permitted to contain sulphur dioxide.

Comminuted meat products

A processed comminuted meat product to meet the requirements of the Code must have undergone a process other than boning, slicing, dicing, mincing or freezing. The product must also contain no less then 300 g/kg of meat. Products in this definition include Devon (Polony) and Strasburg. Patties and rissoles are not considered comminuted meat products as the only process they have undergone is mincing.

More information

Last reviewed: 11-11-2020
Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate