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Reducing the risk of E. coli and other disease-causing organisms in slaughterhouses

Strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella and Campylobacter are some of the disease-causing organisms (pathogens) that can be found in slaughterhouses.

Some pathogens originate from the intestinal track of infected animals and can be brought into the slaughter facilities on the hides and hoofs of animals.

It is not possible to eliminate many of these pathogens from animals, but there are ways to minimize the risk. Reducing the chances of meat becoming contaminated cannot be accomplished at just one step in the process. Reducing contamination must be considered at all steps, from receipt of the animal through processing and shipment.

  • Insist on clean animals from your supplier.
  • Provide clean bedding in your live animal holding areas.
  • Ensure staff are completing carcass dressing in a sanitary manner. Key steps include, but are not limited to:
    • Bringing dry animals into the slaughter plant area whenever possible;
    • Removing manure "tags" where knife cuts will be made during skinning;
    • Using care during skinning to avoid cross contamination from the hide surface to the underlying muscle, and
    • Ensuring equipment is cleaned and sanitized effectively and frequently.
  • Keep the time that carcasses are at room temperature to a minimum.
  • Ensure coolers and refrigerators are maintained at 4 C (39 F)or lower at all times.
  • Prevent cross contamination by:
    • Using boot baths between slaughter and processing areas;
    • Providing clean smocks for staff entering the processing area;
    • Ensuring staff thoroughly wash their hands when leaving the slaughter area and after their hands become contaminated;
    • Providing dedicated knives for the slaughter area; and
    • Providing dedicated knives for the least sanitary parts of the dressing process (e.g. sticking, skinning and bung removal).
  • Microorganisms can build resistance to the same sanitizer when it is used on a repetitive, long‐term basis. Consider rotating the type of sanitizer every six to nine months.
  • Ensure staff are trained in safe food-handling practices, including: personal hygiene; cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces, utensils and equipment; temperature control; and the prevention of cross contamination.

For more information on food-borne illness, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency information web page on food poisoning.

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