Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Appl Microbiol. 2003;95(2):256-66.

The prevalence and spread of Escherichia coli O157:H7 at a commercial beef abattoir.

Author information

  • 1Teagasc, The National Food Centre, Ashtown, Dublin, UK.



To investigate the prevalence and virulence characteristics of Escherichia coli O157:H7 after a number of beef process operations at a commercial Irish abattoir.


Two 12-month studies were carried out. The first study (study 1) examined the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 at up to six sites on carcasses at eight stages of the dressing, washing, chilling and boning process. The second study (study 2) examined the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in bovine faeces and rumen contents post-slaughter and on dressed, washed carcasses. Isolates from both studies were phage-typed and the presence of genes encoding verocytotoxin, enterohaemolysin and intimin production was determined. E. coli O157:H7 was isolated from four of 36 carcasses in study 1. E. coli O157:H7 was detected during hide removal and was detected at multiple carcass sites and multiple process stages, including boning. On two carcasses, contamination was first detected at the bung following its freeing and tying. All isolates from study 1 were phage type (PT) 2, eaeAO157 and ehlyA positive, but were verocytotoxin 1 (VT1) and verocytotoxin 2 (VT2) negative. In study 2, E. coli O157:H7 was isolated from 2.4% of faecal, 0.8% of rumen and 3.2% of carcass samples. In some cases, isolates recovered from the faeces of a particular animal, the resulting carcass and adjacent carcasses on the line had the same phage typing and virulence characteristic profile patterns. All isolates from study 2 were eaeAO157 and ehlyA positive and only one isolate was VT1 and VT2 negative. Most isolates were PT 32. A higher frequency of positive isolations was noted from samples taken during spring and late summer.


These studies show that in a typical Irish beef abattoir, carcass contamination with E. coli O157:H7 can occur during hide removal and bung tying and this contamination can remain on the carcass during subsequent processing.


This study provides data that is necessary for the understanding of how E. coli O157:H7 contamination of beef occurs.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Wiley
    Loading ...
    Support Center