Identification of Inadequately Cleaned Equipment Used in a Sheep Carcass-Breaking Process

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Aeromonads deposited on pork during a carcass-breaking process were recovered on hydrophobic grid membrane filters placed on ampicillin-dextrin-ethanol agar. Isolates from 85 honey-yellow colonies from filters on that medium were Aeromonas hydrophila (95%) or Vibrio sp. (5%). Presumptive aeromonads, coliforms, and Escherichia coli in swab samples from product passing through a sheep carcass-breaking process were enumerated by hydrophobic grid membrane filtration techniques with a detection level of 1 CFU/100 cm2. Total aerobic counts were determined by a spread plate procedure with a detection level of 1 CFU/cm2. The numbers of aerobes, coliforms, and E. coli in the product were apparently unaffected by the carcassbreaking process, although coliforms and E. coli appeared to be redistributed from shoulder to loin and leg portions. However, the numbers of aeromonads on product increased by about two orders of magnitude as a result of the process. Few bacteria were recovered from most cleaned, large items of equipment, but aerobes, coliforms, and aeromonads were recovered at log total numbers of 5.25, 3.96, and 3.26, respectively, from most of 25 samples from bars supporting a conveyor belt. Also, aerobes, coliforms, E. coli, and aeromonads were recovered from 25 supposedly cleaned steel mesh gloves at log total numbers of 10.14, 5.54, 4.73, and 8.30, respectively. Those findings indicate that inspection of cleaned equipment and microbiological sampling of only food-contacting surfaces, as is the current practice at meat plants, cannot provide assurance that the cleaning of carcass-breaking equipment is adequate. Instead, enumeration of indicator organisms on product passing through a process seems to be required as well, with subsequent sampling of equipment to identify sources of contaminants if increases in numbers during processing are observed. For surety of adequate cleaning, enumeration of several types of indicator organism may be necessary, as increases during processing in the numbers of organisms that are present in relatively large numbers on product entering a process may be difficult to detect.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Centre, 6000 C&E Trail, Lacombe, Alberta, Canada T4L 1W1

Publication date: June 1, 1999

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