Prevalence and level of Escherichia coli O157 on beef trimmings, carcasses and boned head meat at a beef slaughter plant

Food Microbiol. 2006 Feb;23(1):52-9. doi: 10.1016/


This study investigated the prevalence and level of Escherichia coli O157 on samples of beef trimmings (n=1351), beef carcasses (n=132) and bovine head meat (n=132) in a beef slaughter plant in Ireland. The survey also included an assessment of the prevalence of virulence genes in the E. coli O157 isolates obtained. Samples were examined for the presence of E. coli O157 by direct plating on SMAC-CT and by enrichment/immunomagnetic separation (IMS) with plating of recovered immunobeads onto SMAC-CT agar. Presumptive E. coli O157 isolates were confirmed by PCR targeting a range of genes i.e. vt1, vt2, eaeA, hlyA, fliC(h7) and portions of the rfb (O-antigen encoding) region of E. coli O157. Enterobacteriaceae on head meat samples were estimated by direct plating onto Violet Red Bile Glucose agar. E. coli O157 was recovered from 2.4% (32/1351) of beef trimmings samples, at concentrations ranging from<0.70-1.61 log10 cfu g(-1). Of the 32 positive isolates, 31 contained the eaeA and hylA genes while 30/32 contained the fliC(h7) gene and 31/32 contained vt1 or vt2, or both vt genes. E. coli O157 was recovered from 3.0% (4/132) of carcass samples, at concentrations ranging from <0.70-1.41 log10 cfu g(-1). All of the carcass isolates contained the eaeA, hylA and fliC(h7) genes. E. coli O157 was recovered from 3.0% (3/100) of head meat samples, at concentrations of 0.7-1.0 log10 cfu g(-1). All of the head meat isolates contained the eaeA, hylA, fliC(h7) and vt2 genes. No head meat isolates contained the vt1 gene. Head meat samples (n=100) contained Enterobacteriaceae, at concentrations ranging from 0.70-3.0 log10 cfu g(-1). Overall, the qualitative and quantitative data obtained for E. coli O157 on beef trimming samples in this study could be employed as part of a quantitative risk assessment model.

MeSH terms

  • Abattoirs*
  • Animals
  • Cattle / microbiology*
  • Colony Count, Microbial / methods*
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Escherichia coli O157 / isolation & purification*
  • Escherichia coli O157 / pathogenicity
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food Microbiology
  • Humans
  • Immunomagnetic Separation / methods
  • Ireland
  • Meat / microbiology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Shiga Toxins / analysis*
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Virulence


  • Shiga Toxins