To identify sources of Escherichia coli on beef by characterizing strains of the organism on animals, equipment and product at beef-packing plant.Methods and Results
Generic E. coli were recovered from hides, carcasses, beef trimmings, conveyers and ground beef during the summer of 2001 (750 isolates) and winter of 2002 (500 isolates). The isolates were characterized by Random Amplification of Polymorphic DNA (RAPD). The numbers of E. coli recovered from dressed carcasses were less than the numbers recovered from hides. The numbers recovered from chilled carcasses were too few for meaningful analysis of the strains present on them but the numbers recovered from trimmings and ground beef were larger. The RAPD patterns showed that the majority of isolates from hides, carcasses, beef trimmings, conveyers and ground beef were of similar RAPD types, but a few unique RAPD types were recovered from only one of those sources. The E. coli populations present on the hides of incoming animals and in the beef-processing environment were highly diverse. Randomly selected E. coli isolates from each of the five sources were further characterized by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Most genotypes of E. coli defined by PFGE corresponded to the E. coli types defined by RAPD.Conclusions
The hides of the incoming animals appeared to be only one of the sources of the E. coli on trimmings and in ground beef, as additional sources were apparently present in equipment used for carcass breaking.Significance and Impact of the Study
This study indicates that hazardous microbiological contamination of meat may occur after the dressing of carcasses at commercial beef-packing plants, which suggests that attention should be given to the control of the contamination of meat during carcass breaking as well as during the dressing of carcasses.