Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010 Jan 15.

Xia X, Meng J, McDermott PF, Ayers S, Blickenstaff K, Tran TT, Abbott J, Zheng J, Zhao S. Department of Nutrition and Food Science, and Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742; Center for Veterinary Medicine, Food and Drug Administration, Laurel, MD 20708; Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, College Park, MD 20740.

To determine the presence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and other potentially diarrheagenic E. coli in retail meats, 7,258 E. coli isolates collected by the U. S. National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) retail meat program from 2002 to 2007 were screened for Shiga toxin genes. In addition, 1,275 of the E. coli isolates recovered in 2006 were examined for virulence genes specific for other diarrheagenic E. coli. Seventeen isolates (16 from ground beef and 1 from pork chop) were positive for stx genes, including five for both stx1 and stx2, two for stx1 and 10 for stx2. The 17 STEC belonged to 10 serotypes: O83:H8, O8:H16, O15:H16, O15:H17, O88:H38, ONT:H51, ONT:H2, ONT:H10, ONT:H7 and ONT:H46. None of the STEC isolates contained eae, whereas seven carried EHEC-hlyA. All except one STEC isolate exhibited toxic effects on Vero cells. DNA sequence analysis showed that stx2 from five STEC isolates encoded mucus-activatable Stx2d. Subtyping of the 17 STEC isolates by PFGE yielded 14 distinct restriction patterns. Among the 1, 275 isolates from 2006, 11 atypical enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) isolates in addition to three STEC were identified. This study demonstrated that retail meats, mainly ground beef, were contaminated with diverse STEC strains. The presence of atypical EPEC strains in retail meat is also of concern due to their potential to cause human infections.

Interestingly, we found somewhat similar results in testing we conducted in 2008 and presented at the VTEC Conference in 2009 – also provided the same to USDA/FSIS.  Again, these results underscore why FSIS should be paying attention to our petition to deem illness causing E. coli’s adulterants.