Developing efficient, multi-pathogen tests for common cattle diseases



Respiratory and enteric diseases are the most common and costly diseases in beef cattle. Both of these types of diseases are multi-factorial disease complexes meaning they involve several viruses and bacteria.Currently these diseases are diagnosed using single pathogen tests making the process very inefficient because each pathogen involved requires a separate test. Effective control of these diseases can benefit from a rapid and cost effective diagnostic test where all relevant pathogens can be tested for in a single assay.

Research currently underway and funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster is working to develop two Continue reading

Practical and effective food safety procedures for beef packing plants



Recent work has shown that E. coli can essentially be eliminated from dressed carcasses in commercial packing plants. Carcass chilling processes can be operated to supplement or largely substitute for decontaminating treatments. Machinery and personal equipment can be cleaned and used in ways that prevent such equipment from contaminating meat during carcass breaking. As a result, food safety issues with beef may arise if known best practices and treatments and practices necessary to produce cuts and trimmings free of pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella are incompletely or inappropriately implemented.

Research currently underway and funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster is working to identify which Continue reading

Understanding non-0157 STEC associated with cattle and beef carcasses


Click to open fact sheet
The food safety risks associated with E. coli O157:H7 are well established and the beef industry has placed a sustained effort in devising strategies to control it.

E. coli O157 is highly pathogenic due to its ability to produce Shiga toxin, among other virulence factors. In recent years, there is increased awareness that illness can also be caused by other Shiga toxin producing E. coli, collectively referred to as non-O157 STEC. In the U.S., the Top 6 non-O157 STEC have been given the same status as E. coli O157. Canada’s beef processing industry needs to be prepared to implement the appropriate testing and recall measures for these STECs, as the U.S. is Canada’s main beef export market.

Research currently underway and funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster will 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

Part 3 of three-part video series on antimicrobial resistance

Adding to the discussion on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the latest episode of the Beef Research School focuses on responsible use of antimicrobials by Canadian beef cattle producers.  We hear from Dr. Calvin Booker, a veterinary consultant with Feedlot Health Management Services, who addresses common misconceptions. Continue reading