Texas A&M meat researchers to present latest E. coli findings

Media contact: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, b-fannin@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – Researchers from Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the department of animal science at Texas A&M University will present the latest on Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, also referred to as STEC, at an upcoming conference in Lincoln, Neb.

“The Texas A&M AgriLife Research team is pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with such a prestigious research group working to help assure the safety of our food,” said Dr. Gary Acuff, director of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety in College Station and one of the collaborative research team members.

The presentations will be made at the 2014 Governor’s Conference/STEC CAP Annual Conference May 27-29.

Based on recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STEC causes approximately 230,000 cases of illness in the U.S. annually. Slightly more than 1 percent of these cases results in hospitalization and life-threatening complications, according to officials.

The conference will feature the latest research on STEC and progress in their prevention and control as sources of foodborne illness, according to organizers.

Texas A&M is one of 15 universities involved in the STEC research that was funded by a five-year, $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The long-term goal of the project is to reduce the occurrence and public health risks from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in beef, while preserving an economically viable and sustainable beef industry,” said Dr. Rod Moxley, project director from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “This can only be accomplished by a multi-institutional effort that brings together complementary teams of the nation’s experts whose expertise spans the entire beef chain continuum and then sharing the research findings through conferences such as this.”

Beef safety research will also be highlighted. Two graduate students in the Texas A&M department of animal science will present findings of ongoing research investigating some novel methods of beef safety preservation. Students will present research findings from studies conducted over the course of the Spring 2014 semester under the supervision of Dr. Matthew Taylor, associate professor, department of animal science, and Dr. Stephen Smith, Professor, department of animal science.

Carolina Gonzalez, a master’s student, will present research detailing the use of fermentative microorganisms to produce natural antimicrobial compounds on beef top sirloins that will inhibit the growth of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). Her research will demonstrate the production of lactic acid by these organisms on beef surfaces during product aging. This will help beef industry members understand how these non-pathogenic microorganisms can inhibit the growth of pathogenic microbes on large cuts of beef prior to preparation.

Tamra Tolen, a Ph.d. student, will present the findings of research exploring the ability of differing plant-derived antimicrobial essential oils to inhibit the growth of STEC on ground beef. These oils, derived from spices including clove and oregano, are also known to exhibit antimicrobial properties.

They are identified as generally safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service and may help inhibit growth of pathogens during transportation and retail.

“These students have completed their research within the STEP Program and have offered to assist undergraduate and graduate students in completing research on beef safety preservation and control of STEC on beef,” Taylor said.

Both students will present research reports and posters.

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