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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Meat Safety and Quality » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #401820

Research Project: Holistic Tactics to Advance the Microbiological Safety and Quality of the Red Meat Continuum

Location: Meat Safety and Quality

Title: Post abattoir risk-based meat safety assurance

item Bosilevac, Joseph - Mick
item Arthur, Terrance
item Wang, Rong

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/1/2023
Publication Date: 3/29/2023
Citation: Bosilevac, J.M., Arthur, T.M., Wang, R. 2023. Post abattoir risk-based meat safety assurance [abstract]. Risk-based meat inspection and integrated meat safety assurance (RIBMINS) 3rd conference, March 29-30, 2023, Bucharest, Romania. P. 9.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: In the United States (US) risk-based meat safety begins with practices and interventions used at beef feedlots and swine barns. Best practices in animal husbandry, vaccinations, and feed additives (probiotics) are combined in attempts to reduce the risk of pathogens being present. During harvest at the abattoir, further physical and chemical interventions are applied to hides, pre-evisceration and final carcasses (as well as offal) that further reduce and lower the risk of contamination. Physical interventions include things such as knife trimming, while chemical interventions include washes of organic acids and other compounds. When final chilled carcasses are examined, virtually no pathogens can be detected. Yet, after these carcasses exit the chiller and commence deboning and fabrication, pathogen contamination may be identified in the finished products and trimmings. Therefore, US meat processors monitor trimmings for pathogens to ensure their safety systems are properly controlling pathogens. Similarly, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) monitors manufacturing trimmings and ground products for pathogens to ensure public health. Both groups expect to find sporadic positive tests, demonstrating the monitoring process is fit for purpose. However, occasional high event periods (HEPs) may occur involving multiple positive pathogen tests over a short period of time and that occur without any identifiable failures of harvest or processing safety systems. When HEPs of E. coli O157:H7 were investigated to characterize their cause, the strains were found to be closely related (indistinguishable by DNA fingerprinting) within the HEP. HEP O157:H7 strains also formed stronger biofilms than control O157:H7 strains. It is known that bacteria do not exist in biofilms alone, but rather as a complex community comprised of multiple organisms. When meat processing environments were characterized for the bacteria making up microbial communities in different zones (coolers of finished carcasses, boning/fabrication lines, and meat grinding areas) it was found that certain communities formed stronger biofilms, tolerated routine sanitization steps, and protected pathogens if they were a component of the biofilm. These results suggest that HEPs and other contamination events are a result of pathogens harbored in the boning/fabrication environment. Despite the implementation of a safety system of successful interventions, contamination can and does occur at sites after harvest and these sites should be considered and included in a risk-based meat safety assurance system.