The association of virulent pathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7, with beef has provoked a need to improve food safety within the industry. To this end HACCP has been made mandatory in federal licensed slaughterhouses. However, the issue whether to implement HACCP in provincial plants is still cause for debate. Studies to date would suggest that current good manufacturing practice produces meat of comparable microbiological quality of that produced under HACCP. Given the range of slaughterhouse line speeds and capacities it is likely that the hazards in a large plant would be different to those in smaller operations. In the proposed study the carriage and transfer of enteric contamination in federal and provincial beef processing lines (farm to breaking) will be compared. Traditionally, verification studies have been based on indicator counts (total viable count, coliforms) or pathogen prevalence. Although plate count data can provide an overall assessment of the success of HACCP/GMP schemes it cannot indicate the origins of the contamination or key cross-contamination sites (Critical Control Points). In this study molecular typing of E. coli will be used to trace the carriage and transfer of enteric contamination on carcasses. In addition, detailed studies will be performed to establish the significance pre-slaughter handling and airborne contamination in defining the microbiological quality of beef carcasses.
Expected Impact of Project Outcomes on Food Safety in Ontario:
Applying HACCP requires a significant input of resources and implementation would impose a burden on many small to medium plants. The key research question to be addressed in this proposal is to provide scientific data to determine the extent to which current good practice schemes operated by provincial slaughter lines provides an adequate protection against supplying meat contaminated with virulent pathogens. This will provide valuable data in supporting future food safety polices with regard regulating beef processing within Ontario. <P> For more information, please visit the <a href="http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/research/foodsafety/index.html" target="_blank">Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Food Safety Research Program</a>.