Shiga toxin producing E. coli has been detected in 30 percent of lamb samples and 11.5 percent of beef samples tested, according to the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST).

It is the first time such screening in sheep and cattle meat has been done in Iceland.

Of 148 samples of Icelandic sheep meat, 44 samples, or 30 percent, were positive for Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC). In the 148 samples of domestic and foreign beef, 17 samples, or 11 percent, were contaminated.

E. coli O103 was detected in a single sample of beef. In the sheep meat, E. coli O26, O103 and O145 were found.

Symptoms of the human infections caused by STEC include abdominal cramps and diarrhea. The incubation period can range from three to eight days. Many people recover within 10 days, but some patients, particularly young children and the elderly, infection may lead to a life-threatening complications such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This is a severe condition associated with E. coli infections that causes kidney failure.

MAST said the testing results clearly show STEC must be studied more closely in meat and preventive measures in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants must be sharpened to reduce the likelihood of meat contamination.

The agency added consumers can significantly reduce their risk of infection from by cooking meat thoroughly and taking care to avoid cross-contamination.

Campylobacter and Salmonella results
Testing for Campylobacter and Salmonella was conducted by MAST, the municipal health inspectorate and Ministry of Industries and Innovation.

From March to December 2018, about 600 samples of sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens of domestic and foreign origin were taken. The purpose was to investigate the level of pathogenic microorganisms in products when the consumer gets them, so samples were taken from supermarkets.

Campylobacter was not detected in 171 samples of poultry meat. One sample of pork was positive for Salmonella. A total of 176 samples of non-frozen chicken, of which at least 163 were of domestic origin, were negative for Salmonella.

Salmonella Goldcoast was detected in a pork sample from Spain. This led to a recall of that batch in July 2018. Further investigation into the food business also identified Salmonella Typhimurium.

MAST said the findings show great progress has been made in the prevention and control of these pathogens during the slaughter of poultry and pigs. Authorities have decided to continue increased monitoring of pathogenic microorganisms in fresh meat on the market until Dec. 2019.

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