This study was undertaken to evaluate the bacterial contamination level of fresh meat from four different (meat samples) animal species, namely bovine, ovine, poultry, and equine (270 carcasses) collected in various Tunisian slaughterhouses and markets.

The level of contamination was assessed using the excised skin technique. All meat surface samples were analyzed for total aerobic microflora, total coliforms, fecal coliforms, and Escherichia coli as an indicator of fecal contamination. Regardless of animal species considered, counts were relatively high for fresh prepared meat. The mean level of contamination for all the meat samples varied from 5.104 to 3.105 CFU/cm2 for total aerobic mesophilic microflora, from 2.102 to 2.103 CFU/cm2 for total coliforms, from 4.101 to 2.102 for fecal coliforms and from 101 to 102 for E. coli. Ovine and poultry carcasses had the highest contamination level. The highest contamination levels were obtained from carcasses prepared in a municipal slaughterhouse and from local markets, where handling and storage conditions were often inappropriate. In this particular case, the total aerobic microflora count reached levels as high as 106 CFU/cm2.

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