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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Shiga-Toxigenic Escherichia Coli (Stec) in the Beef Chain: Assessing and Mitigating the Risk by Translational Science, Education & Outreach

Location: Food Safety and Intervention Technologies

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
To substantially mitigate the risk of STEC infections associated with beef products through comprehensive research, outreach and education. Develop and validate traditional and novel interventions to mitigate the risk of STEC contamination on hides, carcasses, ground beef and non-intact beef products.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
The fundamental question being addressed by the proposed research is does non-intact beef pose a greater risk to public health than otherwise similar, but intact, cuts of beef. To this end, we will comparatively/directly evaluate the extent to which enhancement methods currently used by industry, namely blade tenderization, chemical enhancement, and vacuum tumbling, transfer pathogenic E. coli into the deeper tissues of the meat. We will also quantify if prior chemical treatment of subprimals or inclusion of an antimicrobial within the brine formulation used for injection and/or the marinade for vacuum tumbling will lessen the load of E. coli available for translocation and/or result in greater inactivation of the pathogen during subsequent storage or cooking. In addition to validating the effect of cooking on thermal inactivation of internalized Shiga toxin producing E. coli within enhanced steaks, we will also validate conditions needed for sonication of contaminated tenderization blades to remove/kill the pathogens. It should be noted that the experimental techniques to be used are quite effective and have already been peer-reviewed and published.


3.Progress Report:

A team of some 50 investigators from 12 U.S. institutions was awarded a $25 million Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli Coordinated Agriculture Project (STEC CAP). This multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional initiative, comprised of land-grant universities and government agencies led by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, was coordinated through USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) via the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The primary goal of this grant is to reduce the occurrence and public health risks from eight targeted serogroups/serotypes of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC-8) in beef using a quantitative microbial risk assessment platform. The team maintains world class facilities, broad expertise, existing program infrastructure, access to beef production and processing operations, and strong stakeholder support. The five main objectives of the STEC CAP are: i) detection, ii) biology and characterization, iii) interventions, iv) risk analysis and assessment, and v) risk management and communication. Although just initiated, the team is already sharing and disseminating results on recovery, characterization, and control of STEC at key meetings at the local, regional, national, and international level, as well as initiated new contacts and enhanced existing relationships with food safety professionals in government, academia, and industry. Our focus is on pre- and post-harvest interventions to control STEC. To date, we have monitored the persistence and quantified the levels of STEC. New and enhanced knowledge from this research will yield practical, effective information and communications tools to reduce STEC risk along the beef production to consumption continuum, with potential application to other pathogens and other commodities.


Last Modified: 9/1/2014
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