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The Effect of Lactic Acid and Cooking on the Survivability of E. coli O157:H7 in Needle Tenderized Beef Steaks Managed Under Simulated Industry Conditions

Miller, Mark; Echeverry, Alejandro; Chancey, Cassandra; Brooks, Chance; Brashears, Mindy
Texas Tech University
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E. coli O157:H7 used to only be of concern with ground beef, recently the concern has changed to any meat that has been tenderized or injected, as was found in the case with tenderized frozen steaks that were sold to consumers. On August 20, 2004, approximately 406,000 pounds of frozen beef products were recalled due to E. coli O157:H7 contamination (FSIS-USDA, 2004). On May 11, 2007 another recall occurred. The items included: strip loins steaks, ball tip steaks, top butt steaks, and sirloin steaks (FSIS-USDA, 2007). All of these steaks were mechanically tenderized and linked to illnesses resulting from E. coli O157:H7. These two outbreaks document that E. coli O157:H7 can be transferred into the steaks when they are mechanically tenderized. Because of this, the U.S. Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) currently recommends that mechanically tenderized steaks be cooked to a minimum of 68.3 o C for 15 seconds to ensure that E. coli O157:H7 bacteria cells have been killed (FSIS-USDA, 2007). Therefore; it is important to document that cooking to 68.3 o C for 15 seconds is sufficient to kill E. coli O157:H7 cells in mechanically tenderized products.

Lactic acid is used as an antimicrobial to control or reduce bacterial contamination. One bacterium that lactic acid helps to control is E. coli O157:H7. Lactic acid was first discovered by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1789 while investigating the souring of burgundy wine (Benninga, 1990). Since then scientist have found that lactic acid helps in controlling different bacteria. Most facilities use lactic acid as a critical control point (CCP) in their HACCP plans.

The objective of this research was to characterize the effects of lactic acid spray on needle-tenderized beef strip loins inoculated with low and high levels of Escherichia coli O157:H7 prior to cooking to various endpoint temperatures.

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Findings: The results indicated that at low inoculation levels (those typical of industry contamination levels) 5% lactic acid treatment, vacuum packaging, refrigerated storage and cooking reduced E. coli O157:H7 to nondetectable levels in needle tenderized beef steaks cooked to 55ºC or higher internal temperatures.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Cattlemen's Beef Assoc.
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Bacterial Pathogens
Meat, Poultry, Game