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Effects on the Microbiological Condition of Product of Decontaminating Treatments Routinely Applied to Carcasses at Beef Packing Plants

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Reports on the microbiological effects of decontaminating treatments routinely applied to carcasses at beef packing plants indicate that washing before skinning may reduce the numbers of enteric bacteria transferred from the hide to meat. Washing skinned carcasses and/or dressed sides can reduce the numbers of aerobes and Escherichia coli by about 1 log unit, and pasteurizing sides with steam or hot water can reduce their numbers by >1 or >2 log units, respectively. Spraying with 2% lactic acid, 2% acetic acid, or 200 ppm of peroxyacetic acid can reduce the numbers of aerobes and E. coli by about 1 log, but such treatments can be ineffective if solutions are applied in inadequate quantities or to meat surfaces that are wet after washing. Trimming and vacuum cleaning with or without spraying with hot water may be largely ineffective for improving the microbiological conditions of carcasses. When contamination of meat during carcass dressing is well controlled and carcasses are subjected to effective decontaminating treatments, the numbers of E. coli on dressed carcasses can be <1 CFU/1,000 cm2. However, meat can be recontaminated during carcass breaking with E. coli from detritus that persists in fixed and personal equipment. The adoption at all packing plants of the carcass-dressing procedures and decontaminating treatments used at some plants to obtain carcasses that meet a very high microbiological standard should be encouraged, and means for limiting recontamination of product during carcass breaking and for decontaminating trimmings and other beef products should be considered.

Document Type: Review Article

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

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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