Foodborne pathogens, such as Salmonella, may remain in abattoir lairages after cleansing and pose a risk of transfer and contamination from one processing day to the next. These organisms may be transferred to the outer surface of animals held in lairage facilities, and the skin or hide may be a significant source of microbial contamination on the red meat carcasses subsequently produced. Sponge samples were taken from various sites in the lairage (n = 556), and single-pass sponge samples were taken from one side of red meat carcasses (n = 1,050) at five commercial abattoirs in Southwest England and tested for the presence of Salmonella. Of these, 6.5% of lairage samples were positive, containing estimated numbers of up to 104 Salmonella organisms per sampled area (50 by 50 cm). Salmonella was found on 9.6% of 240 lamb carcasses, 12.7% of 330 beef carcasses, 31% of 70 pig carcasses, 20% of 80 calf carcasses younger than 14 days of age, and none of 330 cull cow and bull carcasses. Subtyping divided the 137 isolates into seven serogroups and three pulsed-field gel electrophoresis clusters, and sensitivity testing against a bank of 16 antimicrobials indicated that 47 isolates had resistance to one or more antimicrobial agents. These results indicate that Salmonella contamination can persist in the lairage environment from one processing day to the next and that Salmonella is present on red meat carcasses, although the implications of residual lairage contamination on carcass meat microbiology are not clear from this study. Abattoir owners should take steps to reduce the level of contamination in their premises to prevent contamination from being carried over from one processing day to the next.

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