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Animal- and Truckload-Level Associations between Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Feces and on Hides at Harvest and Contamination of Preevisceration Beef Carcasses

Jacob, M. E., Renter, D. G., Nagaraja, T. G.
Journal of food protection 2010 v.73 no.6 pp. 1030-1037
Escherichia coli O157, beef, beef carcasses, cattle, confidence interval, cross-sectional studies, feces, odds ratio, regression analysis, slaughterhouses, Midwestern United States
Cattle feces and hides contribute to carcass contamination with Escherichia coli O157:H7, ultimately impacting beef safety. Primary objectives of our cross-sectional study were to evaluate associations among fecal, hide, and preevisceration carcass prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 and to assess factors affecting carcass contamination. Fecal, hide, and preevisceration carcass samples were collected from up to 32 cattle on each of 45 truckloads presented to a midwestern U.S. abattoir. Enrichment and selective culture were used to assess fecal, hide, and carcass prevalence, and direct plating was used to identify cattle shedding high levels of E. coli O157:H7 in feces. Fecal, hide, and carcass prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 within truckload were significantly correlated (P < 0.05) with each other. Enriched fecal sample prevalence was 13.8%, and high shedder prevalence was 3.3%; 38.5% of hides and 10.5% of carcasses were positive for E. coli O157:H7. We used logistic regression to assess animal- and truckload-level variables affecting the probability of carcasses testing positive for E. coli O157:H7. All truckload-level predictors significantly affected the probability of an E. coli O157:H7–positive carcass, including presence of a high shedder within the truckload (odds ratio [OR] = 4.0; confidence interval [CI], 1.6 to 10.1), high (>25%) within-truckload fecal prevalence (OR = 19.3; CI, 4.7 to 79.0), and high (>50%) within-truckload hide prevalence (OR = 7.7; CI, 3.1 to 19.6). The only significant animal-level predictor was having a positive hide (OR = 1.6; CI, 1.0 to 2.6). Our results suggest that preharvest interventions for reducing E. coli O157:H7 contamination of carcasses should focus on truckload (cohort)–level and hide mitigation strategies.