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Transportation and Lairage Environment Effects on Prevalence, Numbers, and Diversity of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on Hides and Carcasses of Beef Cattle at Processing

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Hide has been established as the main source of carcass contamination during cattle processing; therefore, it is crucial to minimize the amount of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on cattle hides before slaughter. Several potential sources of E. coli O157:H7 are encountered during transportation and in the lairage environment at beef-processing facilities that could increase the prevalence and numbers of E. coli O157:H7 on the hides of cattle. On three separate occasions, samples were obtained from cattle at the feedlot and again after cattle were stunned and exsanguinated at the processing plant (286 total animals). The prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 on hides increased from 50.3 to 94.4% between the time cattle were loaded onto tractor-trailers at the feedlot and the time hides were removed in the processing plant. Before transport, nine animals had E. coli O157:H7 in high numbers (>0.4 CFU/cm2) on their hides. When sampled at the slaughter facility, the number of animals with high hide numbers had increased to 70. Overall, only 29% of the E. coli O157:H7 isolates collected postharvest (221 of 764) matched pulsed-field gel electrophoresis types collected before transport. The results of this study indicate that transport to and lairage at processing plants can lead to increases in the prevalence and degree of E. coli O157:H7 contamination on hides and the number of E. coli O157:H7 pulsed-field gel electrophoresis types associated with the animals. More study is needed to confirm the mechanism by which additional E. coli O157:H7 strains contaminate cattle hides during transport and lairage and to design interventions to prevent this contamination.

Document Type: Research Article

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

Publication date: February 1, 2007

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