E-Coli Controls in Place

New method and tools for washing cowhides help control pathogens.

Since a 1993 outbreak of E0Coli O157:h7 scientists at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb. have been working to determine how best to handle the problem. Most early intervention efforts focused on eliminating the pathogenic bacteria from feces found on cowhides. But new findings led to a paradigm shift and the development of improved, hide-targeted intervention techniques. ARA Scientists have now developed a hide-washing tool that has significantly improved the safety of U.S. beef while saving the beef industry millions of dollars each year.

The hide-washing system works by using a high-pressure-water wash that removes excess organic matter from the cattle's hides, which are then sprayed with an antibacterial compound. The scientists also have demonstrated that several chemical compounds can be effectively used for pathogen removal. An estimated 50% of U.S. feedlot-raised beef cattle undergo the washing treatment.

Scientists say the treatment has reduced the national incidence of pathogenic Escherichia Coli in ground beef samples by about 43%. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that E. Coli O157:H7 causes nearly 73,000 illnesses every year in the United States.

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