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


Date of this Version


Document Type



Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 79, No. 4, 2016, Pages 531–537


U.S. Government Work


Cattle are noted carriers of the foodborne pathogen Salmonella enterica. The perceived need to decrease the potential human health risk posed by excretion of this pathogen has resulted in numerous studies examining the factors that influence Salmonella shedding in cattle. Fecal grab (FG) samples have been the predominant method used to identify cattle colonized or infected with Salmonella; however, FG sampling can be impractical in certain situations, and rectoanal mucosal swabs (RAMS) are a more convenient sample type to collect. Despite a lack of studies comparing FG and RAMS for the detection and enumeration of Salmonella fecal shedding, RAMS is perceived as less sensitive because a smaller amount of feces is cultured. In a cross-sectional study to address these concerns, paired RAMS and FG samples were collected from 403 adult feedlot cattle approximately 90 days prior to harvest. Samples were processed for Salmonella enumeration (direct plating) and detection (enrichment and immunomagnetic separation). In all, 89.6% of RAMS and 98.8% of FG samples were positive for Salmonella, and concordant prevalence outcomes were observed for 90.8% of samples. Mean enumeration values were 3.01 and 3.12 log CFU/ml for RAMS and FG, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of RAMS were 91% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 87.5 to 93%) and 100% (95% CI: 48 to 100%), respectively, for Salmonella detection. Furthermore, RAMS Salmonella enumeration was substantially concordant (pc = 0.89; 95% CI: 0.86 to 0.91) with FG values. We conclude that RAMS are a reliable alternative to FG for assessing cattle Salmonella fecal shedding status, especially for cattle shedding high levels of Salmonella.