Beef Processing in the Midst of an E. coli Beef Outbreak
E coli is a facultative anaerobe, which means it thrives in the presence of oxygen but does not necessarily require oxygen. Bacteria like E. coli are ubiquitous in the environment and intestines of people and animals. There are many strains of E. coli, but most are harmless. Other strains of E. coli produce a Shiga toxin (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli is known as STEC) and can cause severe infections and potentially life-threatening complications like hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Beef producers take immense precautions to reduce the risk of STEC contamination in their ground beef. For example, beef processing establishments apply preventative measures like keeping the temperature of the beef processing rooms at or below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, using clean utensils and surfaces, and having employees maintain proper hygiene practices.
The FSIS of the USDA publishes guidelines for beef processors to follow which include the “best practices at slaughter that may be used to prevent, eliminate, or reduce levels of fecal and associated microbiological contamination, specifically STEC and Salmonella contamination in beef (including veal)” (FSIS Compliance Guideline). One area improving in beef processing is the transport, receiving, and holding of live cattle before slaughter and beef processing.
Transporting cattle to the beef processing establishment is a period where there is a heightened risk for contamination. Because pathogens can live on the hides and in the guts of cattle, “there is an increased potential for contamination with enteric pathogens such as adulterant STEC and Salmonella during this time because of their presence on the hide and in feces of cattle” (FSIS Compliance Guideline).
At times of stress, like during transportation, cattle can shed more pathogens in their feces than usual. Beef processors continually strive to reduce the shedding and spreading of harmful pathogens by implementing methods to reduce the stress of cattle, clean the unloading areas, and wash the hides of animals.
More information about food borne E. coli. https://ronsimonassociates.com/foodpoisoning/e-coli-lawyer/