ABSTRACT

Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella are foodborne pathogens commonly harbored in the gastrointestinal tract of sheep. These pathogens can be on the hide of sheep and transferred to the carcass, causing a foodborne hazard. Salmonella can also be found in the lymph nodes of sheep, creating a biological hazard during harvest and processing. Developing countries lack baseline data on the presence of these foodborne pathogens on meat products, specifically sheep meat. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the presence of STEC and Salmonella on sheep hides, preevisceration carcasses, and final carcasses and Salmonella in subiliac lymph nodes from two small Honduran harvest facilities, plants A and B. Sponge swabs from the foreshank region of hides and carcasses and subiliac lymph node samples were collected from 96 sheep (86 at plant A; 10 at plant B). Microbial detection of STEC and Salmonella was performed by using the BAX System to screen for prevalence, and suspect samples were subjected to conventional culture isolation for confirmation. Overall baseline contamination on hides were 34.4 and 10.4% present for STEC and Salmonella; however, through implementation of sanitary procedures, preevisceration and final carcass samples were significantly decreased from the hide for both pathogens (P = 0.05). Moreover, overall plant A had significantly higher rates (P = 0.05) of STEC and Salmonella at each carcass sampling site compared with plant B. After each sampling was performed, recommendations were provided to each facility on the basis of pathogen presence, performance techniques, and contamination risks. Through recommendations and implementation of hazard analysis and critical control points, good manufacturing practices, and sanitation standard operating procedures in each facility, the meat supply in Honduras will become safer and more wholesome. Therefore, the development of a baseline with continued sampling is crucial to understand the risk of foodborne pathogens to consumers in the Honduran sheep meat supply.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Salmonella and STEC were reduced from sheep hides and carcasses with applied interventions.

  • Implemented recommendations reduced Salmonella and STEC presence over time.

  • Proper SSOPs and GMPs remain critical for reducing foodborne pathogen presence.

  • Salmonella was recovered only in 1.0% of Honduran sheep lymph nodes.

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