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FSS publishes report on beef mince after survey finds E.coli in samples

Posted: 16 June 2021 | | No comments yet

The Scottish food safety authority has published the report after a 2019 survey found dangerous pathogens present in some beef mince samples.

beef mince

A survey of beef mince samples in 2019 by FSS revealed the presence of harmful pathogens

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has published a new report designed to address knowledge gaps around the microbial quality of beef mince sold in Scotland, after a recent survey of beef mince found Salmonella and STEC E.coli in some samples.

The survey, conducted in 2019 with 1,009 samples of beef mince on retail sale across the country, had three core objectives:

  • To determine the overall presence of three significant microbiological pathogens and two process hygiene indicators in Scottish beef mince.
  • To identify levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in microbes found in beef mince sold in Scotland; and
  • To identify any differences (eg seasonal or geographic) associated with increased likelihood of microbial contamination.

The survey found levels of Campylobacter at 0.1 percent and Salmonella 0.3 percent, and Shigatoxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC) at 3.5 percent contamination in the products tested.

It also found that the detected STECs varied in their severity, with some associated with causing the most severe forms of human illness.

“The levels of microbiological quality were encouraging, and in line with similar studies in other countries in the past,” said Dr Marianne James, Head of Risk Assessment at Food Standards Scotland.

“Additionally, the study also identified no significant differences between confirmed STEC and all tested factors, such as season, geographical location, or retailer type.

“The levels of AMR in beef mince were low, and any resistance found was to commonly used, first line antibiotics. This provides some reassurance that fresh beef mince on retail sale in Scotland is unlikely to currently be a major foodborne route for transmission from cattle to humans of AMR to critically important antimicrobials.

“Against that background, adherence to cooking instructions on all beef mince packaging and strict hygiene when handling raw mince, remains important to avoid any potential illness associated with the product.”

FSS says it worked closely with Scotland’s Rural College on the project and George Gunn, Head of Veterinary Epidemiology at SRUC, added: “Our survey provided a baseline understanding of the microbiological status of fresh minced beef on retail sale in Scotland while also identifying gaps in our knowledge and the evidence base.”

Beef mince sold in Scotland is not intended to be eaten raw or less than thoroughly cooked. Unless the food packaging says otherwise, the FSS advises consumers to thoroughly cook their mince. Follow all cooking instructions on the food packaging and wash your hands immediately after handling raw mince. If in doubt, consult the FSS website on safe cooking of food at home.

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