Bacterial levels in Saskatchewan retail ground beef
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This thesis describes the results of three studies that used different measures of bacterial numbers in retail ground beef (n=309) collected across different locations in Saskatchewan within a one-year period (May 2011 – May 2012). The measurements were compared among three sample categories: 1 - ground beef displaying government inspection information on the label legend (n=126), 2 - originating from facilities licensed by local health regions and thus not subjected to government inspection (n=80), or 3 - processed and repackaged at the retail level thus carrying no government inspection information on the label (n=103). The first study reports baseline levels of bacteria in Saskatchewan retail ground beef as measured by traditional (total aerobic plate count (TAPC) and total E. coli plate count (TEPC)) and culture-independent methods (estimate of total bacterial load (TBL) by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction). After accounting for season and whether the samples were fresh or frozen at purchase, the lowest TAPC (log10 4.9 culture forming units per gram (cfu/g); 95% CI log10 4.7 to log10 5.1 cfu/g), TEPC (log10 0.58 cfu/g; 95% CI log10 0.39 to log10 0.77 cfu/g), and TBL in frozen ground beef (log10 4.5 target copies per gram (tc/g); 95% CI log10 4.0 to log10 4.9 tc/g) were observed in samples originating from federally regulated or provincially licensed facilities. In the second study, presence of known Enterobacteriaceae virulence factors (stx1, stx2, and eae) was detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and compared between samples originating from three different regulatory and inspection environments as well as collected during different seasons of the year, and purchased fresh or frozen. One hundred and twelve out of all tested samples (n=308) were positive for the presence of at least one virulence marker with stx1 identified in 107 samples, stx2 - in 8, and eae - in 26. No significant associations were found between the virulence markers presence and sample category, state or season of purchase. The third study investigates the presence and diversity of Campylobacter spp. organisms in the same pool of 309 retail beef samples as detected by molecular methods. Fifty samples (16.2%) tested positive for Campylobacter genus-specific DNA in conventional PCR and 49 samples (15.9%) tested positive for at least one Campylobacter species DNA presence in real-time qPCR, but the crude agreement between the two methods was less than 50%. C. coli DNA presence was observed in 14 samples (4.5%), C. curvus – in 11 (3.6%), C. fetus – in 6 (1.9%), C. hyointestinalis – in 24 (7.8%), C. jejuni – in 12 (3.9%), C. rectus – in 6 (1.9%), and C. upsaliensis – in 9 (2.9%). There was no difference in the frequency of Campylobacter identified among the three sample categories, fresh and frozen, or samples purchased during the cold or warm season. These studies provide data on prevalence of bacteria in retail ground beef offered for sale in Saskatchewan and compare differences between samples presented to the consumer as originating from federally regulated or provincially licensed facilities, locally licensed facilities, or repackaged and processed directly at a retail outlet. The information on baseline levels of bacteria in retail ground beef and the comparisons among different categories can be used in prioritising food safety improvement efforts in Saskatchewan.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
DepartmentLarge Animal Clinical Sciences
CommitteeGow, Sheryl P.; Epp, Tasha; Koester, Wolfgang
Copyright DateDecember 2013
food safety, meat inspection, bacterial contamination, Campylobacter