Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Meat Safety & Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #324333

Research Project: PATHOGEN MITIGATION IN LIVESTOCK AND RED MEAT PRODUCTION

Location: Meat Safety & Quality Research

Title: Contamination revealed by indicator microorganism levels during veal processing

Author
item Bosilevac, Joseph - Mick
item Wang, Rong
item Luedtke, Brandon
item Wheeler, Tommy
item Koohmaraie, Mohammad - Institute Of Environmental Health Laboratories And Consulting Group

Submitted to: Journal of Food Protection
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/23/2016
Publication Date: 8/1/2016
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/63016
Citation: Bosilevac, J.M., Wang, R., Luedtke, B.E., Wheeler, T.L., Koohmaraie, M. 2016. Contamination revealed by indicator microorganism levels during veal processing. Journal of Food Protection. 79(8):1341-1347. doi:10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-15-572.

Interpretive Summary: Increased scrutiny of bob veal (calves less than 3 weeks old) and formula-fed veal (calves 20 weeks in age) processing began in 2012 when the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service found a higher percentage of positive tests for pathogens in veal compared to beef. To investigate this problem we visited five veal processors and measured indicator (non-pathogenic) bacteria on hides, pre-intervention carcasses and final carcasses to assess sanitary dressing and antimicrobial intervention procedures in veal processing plants. Veal at harvest was similar to fed beef and cull cows at harvest in regards to levels of indicator bacteria on hides, but indicator bacteria levels were higher on carcasses. A year later three of the processors were visited again and dressing practices had improved with additional training of personnel but carcasses were not improved. In addition, bob veal hides and carcasses were found to have a higher level of indicator bacteria than those of formula-fed veal.

Technical Abstract: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has identified a higher percentage of non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli positive samples collected from veal trimmings than from products produced from other cattle slaughter classes. During site visits of veal processors, FSIS has reported processing deficiencies that likely contribute to increased levels of contamination. Here we report the results of eight sample collections from five veal processors to assess contamination during the harvest of bob veal and formula-fed veal before and after changes to interventions and processing practices. In general, veal calves at harvest were not remarkably different from fed beef and cull cows at harvest in regards to levels of indicator organisms (aerobic plate count bacteria, Enterobacteriaceae counts, generic E. coli and coliforms) on hides. However, veal pre-intervention and final carcasses tended to have higher indicator organism levels than carcasses at other types of processing establishments. A follow up visit to three of the plants found that hide removal dressing practices had improved with additional training of personnel but that changes to carcass-directed interventions had not improved the microbiological quality of final carcasses. In addition, bob veal hides and their associated carcasses were found to have a higher level of indicator organisms than those of formula-fed veal. Contamination during processing has improved since veal was singled out by FSIS, but the nature and harvesting of this group of animals still presents challenges to processors.