Food Microorganisms Library

Raw Beef Contamination & Quality Control

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How to Prevent Raw Beef contamination by pathogens or spoilers?


How to manage Food safety and quality in Beef meat?

Importance of Quality Control in the Raw Beef Industry

Raw beef contamination is a worldwide public health concern. Every year, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) outbreaks are associated with the consumption of contaminated beef products across the globe. Salmonella and Listeria are also two main pathogens of increasing concern in the beef industry. 
Besides pathogens, Quality Indicators (QI) are usually harmless bacterial populations that are monitored to ensure that the beef quality is maintained all along the process and during shelf life.
Spoilage microflora, making food undesirable or unfit for human consumption, is also to consider for beef meat products.
Beef quality — via systematic and accurate microbial testing and prevention — is vital to protecting overall public health and preventing outbreaks, prevent costly recalls, and avoid damage on Beef brands.

Raw Beef Regulators

In many aspects, the intensification of farming systems, and the integration of beef companies from farm to fork, has reduced the likelihood of human infections through the consumption of meat products. At the same time, it has also increased the consequences of any contamination at different levels of the process. Contamination events have become less frequent but are far more severe. 
To curb food contamination and to protect the end consumers, agencies—such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)—guide and regulate the processors, wholesalers, and retailers through a consistent inspection regime.

In the European Union, the EFSA’s Panel on biological hazards provides independent scientific advice on food safety and foodborne diseases and partners with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to offer scientific evaluation and recommendations to the EU legislative and executive institutions (Commission, Council, and Parliament), along with the EU Member States. 

In the US, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the primary agency responsible for regulating beef meat inspections and grading. Safety inspections are mandatory in meat-packing and meat-processing plants. FSIS inspects all meat products sold in interstate commerce and controls imported products to ensure that they meet U.S. food safety standards.

In addition, the implementation of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) has improved food safety by applying scientific principles to prevent meat contamination, especially giving strong focus on pathogenic bacteria awareness. HACCP specifies the hazards, shows their likely location, calls attention to the critical control points, and provides the guidance to take the appropriate action to manage the process. Companies are vigorously carrying out these principles to help ensure safe beef products, from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of the finished product.


What are the common pathogens and spoilers in Beef meat?

Common Raw Beef Pathogens

The most common pathogenic bacteria found in raw beef is Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). In particular, the O157:H7 strain is a rare but dangerous bacterium that can cause severe damage to the intestinal lining and ultimately a highly fatal clinical outcome in form of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). 
Other common pathogens in raw beef include: non-O157 STEC, Salmonella spp, Staphylococcus aureus, and Listeria monocytogenes

What is the difference between Spoilers and Quality Indicators (QI) ?

Meat quality is a complex set of parameters to appreciate before purchasing, eating, or selecting raw meat for processing. Meat spoilage is a metabolic process resulting in the change of sensory.
Quality Indicators are micro-organisms whose presence in beef meat at certain levels is monitored to assess hygienic quality of the product, or to predict product shelf life. The most common QI in beef are Total Viable Count, E. coli count, Coliforms, Yeasts & Molds and Lactic Acid Bacteria count.
Spoilers are specific micro-organisms that will grow in meat and cause oxidation or enzymatic autolysis in the product. Many different species such as Pseudomonas spp, Shewanella spp, Brochothrix thermosphacta, Clostridium spp, Lactobacillus spp, and Yeasts & molds can spoil beef products.


How to Prevent Raw Beef contamination by pathogens or spoilers?

Microbial growth occurs in optimal water, oxygen, and temperature conditions.
Combating foodborne illness from the beef production at farm to slaughterhouse to processing facility to retailer, involves prevention and testing. 

Prevention starts with adhering to cold-chain guidelines, in order to limit microbial growth. 

Next, raw beef enters specified intervention steps. To begin with, before the product is hand-cut into prime cuts and trims, a lactic acid sprays is used to stave off the microbes on the raw beef surfaces. Furthermore, the raw beef is tested for common quality indicators such as E. coli or coliforms before moving to the next step or, promptly, once it is delivered to the further processor. 

Moving down the production line, the raw beef then moves to the further processing, where it is hand-cut, trimmed, portioned (premium cuts like ribeye, New York strip), and vacuum-packed for the retailers, wholesalers, and the restaurants. These plants often employ: (1) a nightly sanitation crew to spray down and wash down all equipment with approved anti-microbial reagents, and (2) a Quality Assurance team to swab equipment, surfaces, and drains for typically an off-site third-party lab evaluation. 

Once a wholesaler, retailer or restaurant receives the product, time and temperature is of the essence. Again, adhering to the cold-chain aids is critical in containing microorganism growth and preventing spoilage growth.  Consistent vigilance including detection should continue until the beef is purchased, prepared, cooked, or consumed.


How to detect contamination in raw beef?

Technologies such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), traditional or automated microbiology, are a few methods to detect and identify specific bacteria that lead to meat contamination by pathogens or spoilage. 
PCR is a method that amplifies small pieces of DNA to generate thousands to millions of copies of a DNA sequence. 
Automated microbiology enables a precise, reliable and reproducible count of diverse QI. It can also be used to detect the lowest quantity of pathogens after enrichment.

Our Quality Control Solutions to Prevent Raw Beef Contamination

The mapping of the presence/absence of pathogen organisms and the quantification of QI as explained above is used to predict food safety and quality. 
If a pathogen indicator is absent, or a Quality Indicator quantification low enough, the product is regarded as being safe relative to the hazard for human consumption. 
On the other hand, a product can have low numbers of a QI and yet not pose a hazard. This is also true for many foodborne pathogens such as enterotoxigenic staphylococci. When low numbers of QI or potentially pathogens are present, it is important to know how either ones will behave in a food product over time. 
Using sequencing and data predictive models, we map pathogens and spoilers in your factory and identify roots causes of contamination. These valuable information will help you to optimize your environmental monitoring program and ultimately prevent potential scraps. 
Predictive Diagnostics provides a great assistance to identify and efficiently manage suppliers’ risks. Understanding risks related to raw materials and suppliers is essential to orient the auditing effort and support focus.

With results in as little as 24 hours, bioMérieux automated solutions for pathogen detection and quality indicators enumeration deliver rapid, accurate, and traceable results to enable faster decisions and corrective actions throughout the process, so you can release products sooner. Our solutions provide valuable insights you need to stay in compliance and protect your brand integrity.

Fully automated solutions adapted to your specific needs of throughput, time to result, and microbial testing

• User-friendly interface for efficient and effective testing
• Standardized and simplified workflow
• LIMS-compatible for easy data tracking and compliance

• Provides results within 1 day
• Increase productivity

• Globally validated by certification bodies according to AOAC and ISO16140 standards

• Flexible throughput to match any lab’s needs
• Manage peaks of activity
• Comprehensive testing menu for pathogen and quality indicators available

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