The focus of this study was: (a) to identify a microbiological intervention for use during fabrication of beef carcasses that will limit or reduce microbial counts on beef cuts and trimmings, as well as reduce the incidence of E. coli O157:H7-positive combo-bins of beef trimmings, and, (b) to identify a protocol for decontamination of beef cuts, intended for blade/needle or moisture-enhancement tenderization, and reduction of risk of finding E. coli O157:H7 inside the beef cuts following blade/needle or moisture-enhancement tenderization.
When surface levels of E. coli O157:H7 were several hundred fold higher than those reported in national surveys, application of antimicrobial interventions of hot (82° C) water, warm (55° C) 2.5% lactic acid, or warm (55° C) 5% lactic acid can reduce pathogen loads on the surface of subprimal cuts and, for those subjected to further processing, can reduce the internalization of surface pathogens. Both blade tenderization and needle-injection/enhancement resulted in the transmission of pathogen from external surfaces into internal surfaces of inoculated subprimals. Needle-injection/enhancement resulted in greater transmission rates compared to blade tenderization.
Implementation of a surface intervention, prior to further processing, would reduce the risk of pathogenic organisms being internalized as well as reducing the risk of encountering foodborne illness from non-intact, blade-tenderized or needle-injection/enhanced beef products.