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Meat foodsafety and riskassessment issue

E. coli STEC/EHEC

One of the most well-known intestinal bacteria is the Escherichia coli bacterium. The name is abbreviated to E. coli and is not only famous as a model bacterium in scientific research, but also infamous because several variants can cause serious diseases. The bacteria are fairly easy to culture and are used as indicator bacteria for hygiene research in the food industry. E. coli belongs together with Salmonella to the group of Enterobacteriaceae that is also used as an indicator group within the meat industry.

For many years it was sufficient to assess the quality of meat for the absence of Enterobacteriaceae and E. coli, but with the development of rapid analysis techniques (PCR) it is now possible to distinguish the real pathogens on the product from the non-pathogens within the group of coli bacteria. Following this development, legislation is also constantly being amended. This makes it seem as if the legislation is becoming stricter, but in fact it is only becoming more precise. Only those batches of meat that pose a food safety risk are rejected. TLR obtained accreditation (ISO17025 L059) for these important analysis.

Somewhere at the beginning of this millennium the PCR became available for the detection of E. coli O157:H7 which was known for causing severe intestinal disease UHS. This bacterium poses a real threat to the YOPIs i.e. young children, elderly, pregnant women and people with immune disorders. The E. coli O104:H4 incident on sprouts (2011) has accelerated PCR analysis and this pathogenic E. coli group is referred to as E. coli STEC/EHEC. Currently, TLR can analyse 9 different serotypes of E. coli STEC/EHEC under accreditation L059 (O26, O45, O103, O104, O111, O121, O145, O157, O174). These serotypes correspond to the requirements set by the Dutch Food Safety Authority for low- and high-risk products for E. coli STEC/EHEC (NVWA Policy Guideline STEC 04-09-2014).

This bacterium is not only found sporadically on sprouted vegetable seeds, but more regularly present on fresh beef. The increase of the danger is closely related to the increase of eating habits of raw beef products within the Netherlands. Following France's example, more and more people are not only eating their steak "Rare" and "medium" but also other products such as hamburgers and chopped German steak. The NVWA indicates in the policy line that producers are always responsible for the quality of products they supply and that a batch may only be released on the basis of a negative E. coli STEC/EHEC analysis. TLR provides a negative screening for E. coli STEC/EHEC within even 12 hours. For positive samples, confirmation is first performed to determine serotype.

 TLR's account managers can advise you on how to apply the NVWA policy line intervention presence STEC in food 2014.

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