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An Investigation of Escherichia coli O157 Contamination of Cattle during Slaughter at an Abattoir

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The extent of contamination with Escherichia coli O157 was determined for 100 cattle during slaughter. Samples from 25 consecutively slaughtered cattle from four unrelated groups were collected from the oral cavity, hide, rumen, feces after evisceration, and pre- and postchill carcass. Ten random fecal samples were collected from the pen where each group of animals was held at the abattoir. E. coli O157 was detected using automated immunomagnetic separation (AIMS), and cell counts were determined using a combination of most probable number (MPN) and AIMS. E. coli O157 was isolated from 87 (14%) of the 606 samples collected, including 24% of 99 oral cavity samples, 44% of 100 hides, 10% of 68 fecal samples collected postevisceration, 6% of 100 prechill carcass swabs, and 15% of 40 fecal samples collected from holding pens. E.coli O157 was not isolated from rumen or postchill carcass samples. E. coli O157 was isolated from at least one sample from each group of cattle tested, and the prevalence in different groups ranged from less than 1 to 41%. The numbers of E. coli O157 differed among the animals groups. The group which contained the highest fecal (7.5 × 105 MPN/g) and hide (22 MPN/cm2) counts in any individual animal was the only group in which E. coli O157 was isolated from carcasses, suggesting a link between the numbers of E. coli O157 present and the risk of carcass contamination. Processing practices at this abattoir were adequate for minimizing contamination of carcasses, even when animals were heavily contaminated with E. coli O157.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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