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Syst Appl Microbiol. 2001 Nov;24(3):457-63.

High prevalence of Yersinia enterocolitica 4:O3 on pig offal in southern Germany: a slaughtering technique problem.

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Institute of Hygiene and Technology of Food of Animal Origin, University of Munich, Germany.


Prevalence and contamination routes of pathogenic Yersinia enterocolitica were studied in Southern Germany. Tonsil and faeces samples of 50 fattening pigs, 140 offal samples and 120 minced meat samples were examined. Pig and offal samples were collected from a slaughterhouse approved by the European Union, and minced meat samples from two large meat factories. Yersinia enterocolitica was isolated using direct plating, overnight enrichment and selective enrichment in MRB and ITC broth. The isolates were bio- and serotyped, and pathogenicity was studied using two plasmid-encoded virulence markers: calcium dependence and Congo red absorption. The genotypes were studied with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis using NotI enzyme. Prevalence of pathogenic Y. enterocolitica 4:O3 was 60% and 10% in tonsils and faeces of fattening pigs, respectively. Besides tonsils, prevalence of pathogenic Y. enterocolitica 4:O3 was also high in other pluck set samples, including tongues, lungs, hearts, diaphragms and livers. However, the highest isolation rate was obtained from the tonsils. Kidneys, which were not attached to the pluck set and did not hang together with tonsils on the rack, had the lowest isolation rate. Yersinia enterocolitica 4:O3 was isolated from 12% of minced meat samples. A total of 25 NotI profiles were obtained from porcine samples. The most common genotype, NBI, found in tonsils was also the most common type recovered from offal and minced meat samples. The high contamination rate of tonsils, and the indistinguishable NotI profiles obtained from tonsils and offal indicate that the tonsils contaminate offal when they are removed and hung on the rack together. When the head, with the tonsils and tongue, is not removed prior to evisceration and is not handled and inspected separately, it is difficult to control the spread of Y. enterocolitica 4:O3 from tonsils to the carcass, and subsequently, to meat.

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