E. Coli Found in Icelandic Meat Skip to content

E. Coli Found in Icelandic Meat

E. coli was found in 30% of lamb samples and 11.5% of beef samples in a test carried out by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST). The particular strain discovered is known as STEC, or shiga-toxin producing E. coli. This is the first time lamb and beef have been screened for STEC in Iceland.

The testing was carried out on around 600 samples of lamb, beef, pork, and chicken of both Icelandic and foreign origin between March and December 2018. The purpose of the testing was to determine the prevalence of pathogenic micro-organisms in products when they reach the consumer, and for this reason the samples were taken from shops.

Campylobacter and salmonella were not detected in pork or chicken samples, with the exception of a single sample of pork from Spain. MAST attributes this to improved preventative measures in slaughterhouses.

Strain can cause illness

Shiga-toxin producing E. coli is a toxigenic species of E. coli. STEC can cause serious illness in humans. Common symptoms include diarrhoea, but contraction of the bacteria can also lead to a type of kidney damage known as HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome). People can contract STEC through contaminated food or water, direct contact with infected animals, or from an environment contaminated by infected animals’ feces.

Part of natural flora

The results of the study indicate that STEC is part of the natural microbial flora of Icelandic cattle and sheep. “It is clear that STEC must be studied more closely in meat and preventative measures in slaughterhouses and meat processing must be intensified to reduce the likelihood that STEC enters meat,” reads MAST’s press release on the findings. “The cleanliness of the livestock is also important here, and it is therefore necessary to prevent the slaughtering of unclean livestock in slaughterhouses.”

Consumer prevention

MAST points to several ways consumers can reduce the risk of infection from salmonella, campylobacter, and E. coli, including cooking meat all the way through and taking care to avoid cross-contamination. Most E. coli is found on the surface of meat, and therefore is killed by frying or grilling, but when meat is ground, the bacteria is distributed throughout. Therefore, hamburgers and other types of ground meat should be cooked through.

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