Two studies were undertaken to determine the microbiological status of sheep carcass meat and frozen, bulk-packed sheep meat produced in Australia. Samples were collected from 470 sheep carcasses and 415 cartons of frozen sheep trimmings over a period of approximately 12 months. Samples were collected from plants processing sheep carcasses for domestic or export markets. On carcasses, where bacterial counts were obtained, the mean of the log10 aerobic plate count (APC) was 3.92/cm2, the geometric mean of the most probable number (MPN) per square centimeter of Escherichia coli (biotype I) was 23, and the geometric mean of the coliform count was 38 MPN per cm2. A high percentage (75%) of samples was positive for E. coli (biotype I), 81% were positive for coliforms, 5.74% were positive for Salmonella spp., and 1.29% were positive for Campylobacter. Bacterial counts were higher on carcasses chilled over a weekend than on carcasses chilled for 24 h. The total number of bacteria on carcasses processed for domestic markets was similar to that on carcasses processed for export markets. E. coli O157 was not isolated from any of the 465 samples tested. Of the frozen export samples that tested positive, the mean of the log10 APC was 3.47/g, the geometric mean of the E. coli (biotype I) count was 9 MPN per g, and the geometric mean of the coliform count was 19 MPN per g. Of the frozen export samples tested, 48% were positive for E. coli (biotype I), 58% were positive for coliforms, and 6.5% were positive for Salmonella spp. E. coli O157 was recovered from 1 of 343 frozen sheep meat samples tested (0.29%). Bacterial counts were higher on samples of domestic product than on samples of export product. Results from both surveys are compared with data from similar studies conducted in other countries.

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