Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has commissioned a project to provide data on microorganisms in raw minced (ground) beef on retail sale across the country.

The survey will run from January to December 2019 and results are expected by summer 2020.

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and partners with Public Analysis laboratories will survey the microbiological pathogens Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), Campylobacter, Salmonella and hygiene indicator organisms such as generic E. coli and aerobic colony counts in minced beef across Scotland.

All pathogens detected and 100 isolates of generic E. coli will be tested for antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Different premises such as butchers and supermarkets, geographical locations and product ranges including value and premium will be surveyed to represent what Scottish consumers are purchasing.

The objective is to generate baseline data on prevalence of pathogens and hygiene indicator organisms in minced beef on retail sale and see if there are patterns in variation, such as geographic or seasonal changes, to identify any risk factors associated with microbiological contamination.

The survey will contribute to evidence on the microbiological quality of different foods which will allow FSS to assess potential risks so it can help food businesses and consumers control them.

Raw minced meat can become contaminated with microorganisms during production but does not present a risk provided it is stored and handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly before eating.

Although retail mince has a label stating it must be fully cooked before consumption, it is still possible that consumers may not fully cook it. Also, pathogens can easily cross-contaminate other foods, surfaces, refrigerators and other items in kitchens and other places in homes.

A 2011 survey in Ireland investigated the prevalence of Salmonella and verotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC) in raw minced beef and beef burgers collected from catering and retail sites.

Salmonella Dublin was detected in one of 983 samples tested in minced beef from a catering establishment. Ten of 402 samples tested using a non-serogroup specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for VTEC were positive. Two of 983 samples analyzed specifically for E. coli O157 were positive.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)