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German testing finds E. coli in beef, salad, and dough

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E. coli has been found in ground beef, pre-packaged salads, and ready-made dough and baking mixes, according to results of food controls in Germany.

In 2021 risk-based monitoring, samples of ground, or minced, beef was examined. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli were detected in 28 of 420 samples. It was also found in two of 86 tests on fresh beef at retail.

German officials said at-risk consumer groups such as small children, the elderly, immunocompromised people, and pregnant women should only consume ground meat that has been sufficiently cooked.

A total of 88 of 410 ground beef samples tested for Listeria monocytogenes were also positive. Levels were low but can still pose a health risk to vulnerable people. One sample had levels near the legal limit.

Salad and baking mixes
Ready-cut and packaged salads that save preparation time were also checked. The conditions in the packs can allow germs to grow.

Presumptive Bacillus cereus was detected in 200 of 428 samples of lamb’s lettuce and rocket salad, although only a few were found to be highly contaminated.

E. coli was found in eight of 423 lettuce samples and 10 of 433 samples were positive for low levels of Listeria monocytogenes. All 433 samples were negative for Salmonella.

Since salads are eaten raw, the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) advises at-risk consumer groups not to eat pre-packed salads. People should prepare salads themselves from fresh and thoroughly washed ingredients shortly before consumption.

In other results from baking mixes and dough, 335 samples were examined for E. coli contamination. Mainly baking mixes, but also ready-made dough and a few bread flour mixes. E. coli was found in 35 samples.

In the previous year, monitoring results showed E. coli was detected in almost every tenth sample of wheat flour from milling operations.

Salmonella and other pathogen results
Two of 473 samples of fresh retail pork were positive for Salmonella as were five of 394 samples of ground pork. One of the 422 tests was positive for ground beef. This is similar to results in past years. Monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium was detected, showing the importance of ground pork as a potential source of human infection with Salmonella.

Results of Campylobacter in neck skin samples of broilers at the slaughterhouse showed 80 were between 100 and 1,000 colony-forming units per gram (CFU/g) and 89 were above 1,000 CFU/g. Findings reveal limited progress in reducing high counts despite the process hygiene criterion that was introduced in 2018.

The contamination rate of fresh chicken meat at retail was 46.9 percent with 218 of 465 samples positive. However, this was down from 2020 and only one sample was above 100 CFU/g.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was detected in 14 of 405 beef samples from retail. Yersinia enterocolitica was found in 18 of 384 samples from pigs at slaughterhouses.

German officials also looked at species substitution and fraud in fish and seafood and levels of acrylamide in vegetable chips and blackened olives.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

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