U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Published in Meat Science 71 (2005) 79–91. DOI:10.1016/j.meatsci.2005.03.012


In 1999 the foodborne pathogens Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, and Escherichia coli (both O157 and non-O157) were estimated to cause more than 6 million illnesses and approximately 9000 deaths each year. However, the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on the sources and incidence of foodborne disease, released in 2004, has shown a dramatic decrease in E. coli O157:H7 infections. Since raw beef products are the most frequently foodborne sources of these pathogens, the results of this report demonstrate that the microbiological quality of raw beef has improved greatly. During the intervening years, post-harvest interventions have continually improved, with new attention to hide decontamination and innovative treatments of carcasses. In addition, a system to hold and test beef trim or ground beef for E. coli O157:H7 before its release into commerce has provided an even greater level of safety. In this paper, we review the latest information on the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 and other pathogens on beef, the evidence identifying the hide as the primary source of pathogens on beef carcasses, the efficacy of various hide and carcass interventions, and other developments that have led or have the potential to lead to even greater improvements in the microbial quality of beef.