Angela M. Valadez, Chitrita Debroy, Edward Dudley, And Catherine N. Cutter

Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 74, No. 2, 2011, Pages 228–239 Copyright G, International Association for Food Protection

ABSTRACT:  Numerous foodborne outbreaks are attributed to Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and have been recognized for causing gastrointestinal disease in humans. Beef products have been considered the principal source of STEC. A multiplex PCR assay enabling simultaneous detection of STEC O103, O91, O113, O145, O111, O157, and O26 was developed and evaluated in artificially contaminated beef carcass swabs, beef trim, and ground beef after overnight enrichment. Individual serogroups were experimentally inoculated at low (1 to 10 CFU/ml) and high (11 to 100 CFU/ml) levels, and with a cocktail of strains belonging to two, four, and six serogroups. There was no significant difference in detecting single STEC strains under the different conditions. Only when strains were combined were there significant differences in detection of all cocktail isolates in some of the beef products. To address this issue, four serogroups were experimentally inoculated together at three different estimated levels (10, 102, and 103 CFU/ml) in all three beef products. Results yielded no significant difference in detecting STEC at the three inoculation levels (10, 102, and 103 CFU/ml) in trim and carcass swabs, but there was a significant difference in detecting STEC at the lowest levels (10 and 102 CFU/ml) in the 80:20 nonirradiated ground beef, and in the detection of STEC in irradiated ground beef. The findings from this study could provide industry and government agencies with a tool to evaluate the prevalence and incidence of STEC in beef products and their processing environments.