Bug Spray for Beef?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted with permission.

The last two research columns have been about technologies and best practices that large and small beef packers can adopt to avoid bacterial contamination during dressing of beef carcasses, and to avoid bacterial (re)contamination of beef cuts and trim during further processing. Ground beef is more of a food safety risk than other cuts, for reasons discussed in last month’s column. As a result, Dr. Colin Gill, Xianqin Yang, Madhu Badoni and Mohamed Youssef of AAFC’s Lacombe Research Station have studied whether lactic acid sprays can combat E. coli in beef trim. Continue reading

Better Housekeeping



This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted with permission.

Last month’s column discussed a Beef Science Cluster study conducted by Dr. Colin Gill, Xianqin Yang, Madhu Badoni and Mohamed Youssef of AAFC’s Lacombe Research Station. These researchers found that both large and small packing plants can produce dressed beef carcasses with very few E. coli bacteria, even though they use very different food safety interventions and strategies. But E. coli-related recalls still happen occasionally. How does beef get contaminated when the carcasses carry so few E. coli? Two papers published by this research team (Journal of Food Protection 75:144-149 and Food Control 31:166-171) help explain how this can happen.

What They Did: This research was done in a large packing plant that Continue reading

More Than One Way to Skin a Cow

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted with permission.



This time last year, Canada’s beef industry was coping with the Lakeside-XL beef recall. That event focused attention on the safety of Canadian beef, and the practices that the beef packing industry uses to manage food safety risks.

Since the late 1990’s, North America’s beef processors have used Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plans (also called HACCP, and pronounced “hassip”) to improve food safety. A HACCP plan identifies food safety hazards, identifies the steps that can adequately control those hazards, actively monitors the controls that are implemented, outlines how to fix problems that arise, develops ways to verify that these management practices are working, and keeps records to document that these steps are being done right. Not all packing plants are designed and built from the same blueprint, so each plant has unique challenges. Continue reading

On-farm E. coli O157:H7 control?

Editor’s note: Following the recent release of the Independent Review of XL Foods Inc. Beef Recall 2012, we thought it timely to pull this article from the archives to help address any questions about pre-harvest interventions or on-farm practices to mitigate food safety risks. See below for links to more science-based information on E. coli O157:H7 and summaries of industry-funded research which strives to find practical, economical and effective solutions to reduce or prevent pathogen contamination throughout the production chain. Stay tuned to the BCRC Blog to learn about upcoming food safety research funded within the Beef Cattle Industry Science Cluster under Growing Forward 2.

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted with permission.



E. coli
O157:H7 has raised its ugly head again with the unfortunate illnesses and massive cross-Canada beef recall. E. coli bacteria are naturally found in the digestive tract of all warm-blooded animals. There are many strains of E. coli. Most strains are harmless and some may have health benefits. But E. coli strains that produce Shiga toxins can be very dangerous. When humans absorb Shiga toxins they can experience severe abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea. Recovery can take over a week. Consequences can be more severe or even fatal in patients who are very young, very old, or have weak immune systems. E. coli O157:H7 does not cause illness in cattle because cattle do not have receptors for Shiga toxins. Continue reading

How do carcass processing procedures impact food safety?



Canadian beef packing plants have progressively and effectively modified their processes over time to reduce the levels of harmful bacteria contamination on product. Studies have shown that carcass pasteurizing is generally effective in commercial practice, but cuts and trim carry more E. coli than beef in its whole carcass state. Therefore beef is being contaminated during carcass breaking. What’s the source of the bacteria?

A recently-completed research project, funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster, worked to determine how Continue reading

E-beam irradiation research: new fact sheet and video



Irradiation is approved for food treatment in over 50 countries. In Canada, irradiation is approved for spices, seasonings, flour, onions and potatoes. In the United States, irradiation is approved for use in meat at absorbed doses up to 7 kilo Gray (kGy), and it has been scientifically proven safe for food use at absorbed doses up to 60 kGy. Irradiation has insignificant effects on nutrients in beef, even at very high absorbed doses.

A recently-completed research project, funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster, studied the effectiveness of low-dose electron-beam treatment (at 1 kGy) in eliminating harmful bacteria in beef trim used to make ground beef.  It also studied whether a panel of taste-testers could determine whether or not patties were made with e-beam treated beef based on color, aroma, texture, juiciness or flavor. Continue reading

Revisiting irradiation



This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted with permission.

Recent events have renewed interest and discussion regarding the potential use of irradiation to kill harmful bacteria in meat. Irradiation may provide an additional insurance step before meat leaves the plant. Continue reading

Food Safety Research on Mechanically Tenderized Beef

This is a guest post written by Mark Klassen, Director of Technical Services for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Canada Beef Inc.

Mechanical tenderization is a process that typically utilizes a set of needles or blades which penetrate meat, cutting through muscle fibers and connective tissue to improve tenderness. Mechanical tenderization has been widely utilized in Canada to enhance the eating quality of beef for many years.

During the 2012 recall of beef from XL Foods Inc., there were five reported cases of illness thought to be associated with the consumption and/or handling of mechanically tenderized product. Consequently, Health Canada is now undertaking a risk assessment to examine the safety of mechanically tenderized beef and to provide guidance around cooking temperatures.

To ensure the best information is available to Government and the Canadian beef industry, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has instigated further food safety research. The research is focused on four aspects related to the safety of mechanically tenderized beef. Continue reading

Latest Results from Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance

The Public Health Agency of Canada has completed its most recent report on the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS). This program monitors trends in antimicrobial resistance in beef cattle, swine and broiler chickens, and in meat samples collected from retail stores, with a focus on three bacteria of interest: E. coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella.  Samples are also collected from healthy animals entering federally inspected abattoirs that process cattle (E. coli and Campylobacter), swine (E. coli and Salmonella), and chicken (E. coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella). All three bacteria are also examined in retail chicken, and only E. coli testing results are reported for retail beef and pork because Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria are so rare in these meats. Continue reading

E. coli O157:H7: an Industry Research Priority

E. coli O157:H7, the cause for the recent, extensive beef recall, is one of the few types of E. coli that is dangerous to humans.  It is shed in the feces of many warm-blooded animals, including deer, geese, dogs and cattle. E. coli O157:H7 is harmless to most animals but can be dangerous to humans if contaminated water or undercooked meat is consumed, especially to those with an immature or weakened immune system.  Beef can become contaminated by cattle hides and equipment during slaughter and processing or by food handlers in the retail sector.

Potentially dangerous pathogens are uncommon in beef, which is due in large part to the industry focus on combatting E. coli O157:H7. Continue reading