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J Food Prot. 2004 Apr;67(4):658-65.

Escherichia coli O157 prevalence and enumeration of aerobic bacteria, Enterobacteriaceae, and Escherichia coli O157 at various steps in commercial beef processing plants.

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Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Clay Center, Nebraska 68933-0166, USA.


The effectiveness of current antimicrobial interventions used in reducing the prevalence or load of Escherichia coli O157 and indicator organisms on cattle hides and carcasses at two commercial beef processing plants was evaluated. Sponge sampling of beef cattle was performed at five locations from the initial entry of the animals to the slaughter floor to the exit of carcasses from the "hotbox" cooler. For each sample, E. coli O157 prevalence was determined and total aerobic bacteria, Enterobacteriaceae, and E. coli O157 were enumerated. E. coli O157 was found on 76% of animal hides coming into the plants, but no carcasses leaving the cooler were identified as contaminated with E. coli O157. A positive relationship was seen between the incidence of E. coli O157 in hide samples and that in preevisceration samples. Aerobic plate counts and Enterobacteriaceae counts averaged 7.8 and 6.2 log CFU/100 cm2, respectively, on hides, and 1.4 and 0.4 log CFU/100 cm2, respectively, on chilled carcasses. Aerobic plate counts and Enterobacteriaceae counts on preevisceration carcasses were significantly related to the respective levels on the corresponding hides; the carcasses of animals whose hides carried higher numbers of bacteria were more likely to carry higher numbers of bacteria. Implementation of the sampling protocol described here would allow processors to evaluate the efficacy of on-line antimicrobial interventions and allow industrywide benchmarking of hygienic practices.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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