Date of this Version
Zhang, Y.; Schmidt, J.W.; Arthur, T.M.; Wheeler, T.L.; Zhang, Q.;Wang, B. A Farm-to-Fork Quantitative Microbial Exposure Assessment of β-Lactam-Resistant Escherichia coli among U.S. Beef Consumers. Microorganisms 2022, 10, 661. https://doi.org/10.3390/ microorganisms10030661
Integrated quantitative descriptions of the transmission of β-lactam-resistant Escherichia coli (BR-EC) from commercial beef products to consumers are not available. Here, a quantitative microbial exposure assessment model was established to simulate the fate of BR-EC in a farm-to-fork continuum and provide an estimate of BR-EC exposure among beef consumers in the U.S. The model compared the per-serving exposures from the consumption of intact beef cuts, non-intact beef cuts, and ground beef. Additionally, scenario analysis was performed to evaluate the relative contribution of antibiotic use during beef cattle production to the level of human exposure to BR-EC. The model predicted mean numbers of BR-EC of 1.7 x 10-4, 8.7 x 10-4, and 6.9 x 10-1 CFU/serving for intact beef cuts, non-intact beef cuts, and ground beef, respectively, at the time of consumption. Sensitivity analyses using the baseline model suggested that factors related to sectors along the supply chain, i.e., feedlots, processing plants, retailers, and consumers, were all important for controlling human exposure to BR-EC. Interventions at the processing and post-processing stages are expected to be most effective. Simulation results showed that a decrease in antibiotic use among beef cattle might be associated with a reduction in exposure to BR-EC from beef consumption. However, the absolute reduction was moderate, indicating that the effectiveness of restricting antibiotic use as a standalone strategy for mitigating human exposure to BR-EC through beef consumption is still uncertain. Good cooking and hygiene practices at home and advanced safety management practices in the beef processing and post-processing continuum are more powerful approaches for reducing human exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in beef products.