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Int J Food Microbiol. 1996 Aug;31(1-3):181-96.

Use of total of Escherichia coli counts to assess the hygienic characteristics of a beef carcass dressing process.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre, Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.


Swab samples were obtained from 3 sites on the surfaces of beef carcasses passing through a high speed dressing process, with 24 samples from each site being obtained at each of 4 points in the process. The aerobic microflora recovered from each swab after incubation at 25 degrees C was enumerated and characterized, and numbers of coliforms and Escherichia coli were determined. The data on aerobic flora indicated that skinning results in similar contamination of all 3 sites, that further deposition of bacteria at the brisket site occurs after skinning, and that trimming and washing achieve modest decontamination of the neck and brisket site, and extensive decontamination of the rump site. Changes in flora compositions during processing were too limited to much affect the assessment based on the aerobic flora total counts alone. The E. coli data indicated that during skinning the rump site was more heavily contaminated with faecal organisms than the other sites, that contamination of the brisket site is little altered between skinning and carcass splitting, although there is an extensive redistribution of E. coli at the neck site and sporadic, limited decontamination of the rump site, and that trimming and washing do not decontaminate the neck or rump sites, but that the rump site is extensively decontaminated by trimming. There was good correlation between E. coli and coliform counts, but weak correlation between E. coli and aerobic, 25 degrees C, counts. The findings suggest that assessments of beef carcass dressing processes for Hazard Analysis: Critical Control Point (HACCP) purposes should be based on enumerations of E. coli, or perhaps coliforms, rather than of the aerobic flora, to avoid important misunderstandings of the hygienic effects of the various operations in a process.

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