Campylobacter jejuni is one of the most common causes of bacterial diarrheal illness in
the United States (CDC). According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, research has
shown that 20 to 100% of retail chickens are contaminated with the organism (FDA). It is
assumed these high numbers are because many healthy chickens carry Campylobacter in their
intestinal tract (Franco, Williams, 2001). However, Campylobacter is often carried by healthy
cattle as well; little research is currently available to determine the prevalence of Campylobacter
in beef products that are available in U.S. supermarkets. Therefore, it is important for us to
establish a baseline for Campylobacter jejuni prevalence within the United States in order to
better understand the prevalence of this organism and ultimately prevent food-borne illness from
beef products available at supermarkets.
1. Determine through microbiological analyses the prevalence of Campylobacter in U.S.
fresh ground beef and whole muscle cuts at the supermarket level.
<P> 2. Determine if the prevalence of Campylobacter differs among package types, using the
four most common forms of packaging available in U.S. supermarkets (modified
atmosphere packaging (MAP), traditional polyvinylchloride overwrap (PVC), chub, and
laminate vacuum packaging).
Findings: Ground beef (n = 1,109) and whole muscle (n = 293) samples were collected from retail outlets across the United States. Ground beef package types were characterized as: modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), chub, traditional polyvinyl chloride film overwrap (PVC), and laminate packaging. Microbial analysis was conducted on all samples to determine those positive for Campylobacter jejuni. Of the 1,402 samples analyzed, 7.13% tested positive for Campylobacter. The percentage of ground beef samples that tested positive Campylobacter were 6.31%. The percentage of whole muscle beef cuts that tested positive for Campylobacter was 10.24%. To characterize the data further, two comparisons were made using packaging type: the percentage of positive ground beef samples among all package types and the percentage of positive ground beef samples within each package type. Among ground beef samples testing positive for Campylobacter, 1.89, 1.98, 2.34, and 0.09% were attributed to MAP, chub, PVC and laminate packaging. Within each packaging category, 5.92, 7.28, 5.83 and 16.66% of MAP, chub, PVC and laminate samples, respectively, were positive for Campylobacter.