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Source tracking of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella contamination in the lairage environment at commercial U.S. beef processing plants and identification of an effective intervention

Terrance M Arthur, Joseph M Bosilevac, Dayna M Brichta-Harhay, Norasak Kalchayanand, David A King, Steven D Shackelford, Tommy L Wheeler, Mohammad Koohmaraie
Journal of Food Protection 2008, 71 (9): 1752-60
Transportation from the feedlot and lairage at the processing plant have been identified as potential sources of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella hide contamination. The objective of this study was to perform a comprehensive tracking analysis of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella associated with beef cattle from the feedlot through processing. Cattle (n = 581) were sampled in a feedlot, then transported in multiple lots to three commercial, fed beef processing plants in the United States, where they were sampled again. Samples were collected from the tractor trailers prior to loading cattle and from the lairage environment spaces prior to entry of the study cattle. Pathogen prevalence on cattle hides increased on every lot of cattle between exiting the feedlot and beginning processing. Prior to loading cattle, E. coli O157:H7 was found in 9 (64%) of 14 tractor trailers. E. coli O157:H7 was detected in over 60% of the samples from each lairage environment area, while Salmonella was detected in over 70% of the samples from each lairage environment area. E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella isolates (n = 3,645) were analyzed using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. The results of the pulsed-field gel electrophoresis tracking indicate that the transfer of bacteria onto cattle hides that occurs in the lairage environments of U.S beef processing plants accounts for a larger proportion of the hide and carcass contamination than does the initial bacterial population found on the cattle exiting the feedlot. Finally, the results of this study indicate that hide wash cabinets are effective in removing contamination derived from the lairage environment.


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