The potential use of chilling to control the growth of Enterobacteriaceae on porcine carcasses and the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 in pigs


Mary Lenahan, Ashtown Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin 15, Ireland. E-mail:


Aims:  To (i) monitor the presence of Enterobacteriaceae as indicators of faecal contamination on pig carcasses, (ii) examine the potential use of chilling as a critical control point (CCP) and establish its influence on pig carcass categorization by Decision 471/EC and (iii) determine the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 in pigs.

Methods and Results:  Porcine faecal samples and carcass swabs were collected before and after chilling at four Irish pig abattoirs and examined for Enterobacteriaceae and E. coli O157:H7. Chilling generally reduced Enterobacteriaceae counts on carcasses, but increases were also observed, particularly in one abattoir. E. coli O157:H7 was absent from carcasses before chilling, present on 0·21% after chilling and was recovered from 0·63% of faecal samples. All of the isolates were found to contain virulence genes associated with clinical illness in humans.

Conclusions:  The data show that overall chilling had the capacity to reduce the numbers of carcasses positive for the presence of Enterobacteriaceae.

Significance and Impact of Study:  The influence of chilling on the categorization of pig carcasses suggests that it has the potential to improve the numbers of acceptable carcasses and the process could be used as a CCP within a HACCP plan.