Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 108, Issue 1, pp e71–e78 | Cite as

Evidence for the benefits of food chain interventions on E. coli O157:H7/NM prevalence in retail ground beef and human disease incidence: A success story

  • Frank Pollari
  • Tanya Christidis
  • Katarina D. M. PintarEmail author
  • Andrea Nesbitt
  • Jeff Farber
  • Marie-Claude Lavoie
  • Alex Gill
  • Penelope Kirsch
  • Roger P. Johnson
Population Health Intervention Research


OBJECTIVES: Human infection with Escherichia coli O157:H7/NM has historically been associated with consumption of undercooked ground beef. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the correlation of the decline in E. coli O157:H7/NM infections in Canada with the introduction of control efforts in ground beef by industry.

METHODS: The human incidence of E. coli O157:H7/NM, prevalence in ground beef and interventions from 1996 to 2014 were analyzed. Pathogen prevalence data were obtained from federal government and industry surveillance and inspection/compliance programs. A survey of the largest ground beef producers in Canada was conducted to identify when interventions were implemented.

RESULTS: The incidence of E. coli O157:H7/NM infections in Canada declined from ≈4 cases/100 000 to ≈1 case/100000 from 2000 to 2010. Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) prevalence in ground beef sold at retail declined from about 30% around the year 2000 to <2% since 2012. Other measures of the prevalence of E. coli, VTEC, and E. coli O157:H7/NM in beef and ground beef also declined. The number and types of interventions implemented in the major beef processing establishments in Canada increased from 1996 to 2016.

CONCLUSION: The observed decline in human illnesses and pathogen levels in relation to retail meats was associated with the introduction of control efforts by industry, federal and provincial/territorial governments, and the general population. Industry-led changes in beef processing along with the introduction of food safety policies, regulations, and public education have led to improved food safety in Canada.

Key Words

Escherichia coli food safety beef 


OBJECTIFS: Les infections humaines à Escherichia coli O157:H7/NM ont par le passé été associées à la consommation de bœuf haché insuffisamment cuit. L’objet de cet article est d’étudier la corrélation entre la baisse des infections à E. coli O157:H7/NM au Canada et l’introduction de mesures de contrôle du bœuf haché par l’industrie.

MÉTHODE: Nous avons analysé l’incidence d’E. coli O157:H7/NM chez les humains, sa prévalence dans le bœuf haché et les interventions menées entre 1996 et 2014. Nos données sur la prévalence des agents pathogènes ont été obtenues auprès du gouvernement fédéral et des programmes de surveillance et d’inspection ou de conformité de l’industrie. Nous avons sondé les plus grands producteurs de bœuf haché au Canada afin de déterminer le moment où les interventions ont été appliquées.

RÉSULTATS: L’incidence des infections à E. coli O157:H7/NM au Canada a baissé, passant de ≈4 cas/100 000 à ≈1 cas/100 000 entre 2000 et 2010. La prévalence d’Escherichia coli vérotoxigène (VTEC) dans le bœuf haché vendu au détail est passée d’environ 30% vers l’an 2000 à <2% depuis 2012. D’autres indicateurs de la prévalence d’E coli, de VTEC et d’E. coli O157:H7/NM dans le bœuf et le bœuf haché ont aussi affiché des baisses. Le nombre et les types d’interventions appliquées par les grandes entreprises de transformation du bœuf au Canada ont augmenté entre 1996 et 2016.

CONCLUSION: La baisse observée des maladies humaines et des niveaux d’agents pathogènes en lien avec la viande vendue au détail était associée à l’introduction de mesures de contrôle par l’industrie, les gouvernements fédéral, provinciaux et territoriaux et la population générale. Les changements apportés par l’industrie à la transformation du bœuf, ainsi que l’introduction de politiques, de règlements et d’efforts de sensibilisation du public à la salubrité des aliments, ont entraîné une amélioration de la salubrité des aliments au Canada.

Mots Clés

Escherichia coli salubrité des aliments bœuf 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Pollari
    • 1
  • Tanya Christidis
    • 1
  • Katarina D. M. Pintar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea Nesbitt
    • 1
  • Jeff Farber
    • 2
  • Marie-Claude Lavoie
    • 3
  • Alex Gill
    • 3
  • Penelope Kirsch
    • 4
  • Roger P. Johnson
    • 5
  1. 1.Centre for Food-borne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious DiseasesPublic Health Agency of CanadaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Food ScienceUniversity of CuelphGuelphCanada
  3. 3.Health CanadaOttawaCanada
  4. 4.Canadian Food Inspection AgencyOttawaCanada
  5. 5.National Microbiology Laboratory at Guelph, Public Health Agency of CanadaOttawaCanada

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