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.
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission.
No one wants to throw up in zero gravity, so space programs take great care to avoid food poisoning among astronauts. Irradiation has been used to pasteurize astronauts’ food since 1966. In fact, irradiation has been the most studied of all food-processing technologies over the past 60 years. Irradiation improves food safety by fatally damaging bacterial DNA. This stops the growth and reproduction of the bacteria that can cause food to spoil or people to become sick.
Irradiation is also approved as a food safety treatment in over 50 countries back here on earth. For example, France, Belgium and the Netherlands use irradiation to combat food-borne pathogens in frogs’ legs, seafood, and poultry. The U.S. has approved irradiation of meat. Canada has approved irradiation for spices, seasonings, flour, onions and seed potatoes, but not meat or poultry. Irradiation is safe for human food use at doses more than eight times higher than those approved for meat in the U.S. Irradiation does not cause the meat to become radioactive, and has less of an effect on food nutrients than cooking does, but irradiation can have undesirable effects on flavour or colour under some conditions. Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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