Food safety practices of meat slaughter plants: Findings from a national survey
Meat slaughter plants may implement technologies and practices to control E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and other pathogens during slaughter, fabrication, and further processing operations (e.g., grinding or cooking). To characterize the use of food safety practices and technologies in the US meat slaughter industry, we conducted a nationally representative survey of plants that slaughter cattle, swine, goats, lambs and other meat species, including plants that slaughter and also conduct further processing activities (598 completed surveys, 65% response rate). Many plants have adopted the food safety technologies and practices asked about in the survey. In particular, 75% of plants use some type of carcass decontamination intervention, and 41% use some type of decontamination intervention for processed product such as ground beef or luncheon meats. Seventy percent of plants conduct voluntary microbiological testing, and 52% conduct environmental sampling. Less than 30% of plants have their operations audited, have written food security policies and procedures, and have documented requirements that animal growers use stipulated practices for pathogen control. Large and small plants are more likely than very small plants to use many of the food safety practices and technologies (P < 0.01). The survey findings, coupled with other data, can be used to characterize meat slaughter plants’ food safety risk management practices.