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The presence of <1% of an undeclared species in ground meat is generally thought to be indicative of cross-contamination as opposed to intentional mislabeling; however, this has not been experimentally tested. The objective of this study was to quantify the effects of poor sanitation on the cross-contamination of animal species in ground meat products, with the example of undeclared pork in ground beef. Cross-contamination was quantified using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Three different sanitation treatments were tested with a commercial grinder (“no cleaning”, “partial cleaning”, or “complete cleaning”) in between grinding of pork and beef samples (13.6 kg each). A 100-g sample was collected for each 0.91 kg (2 lb) of beef processed with the grinder and each sanitation treatment was tested twice. For the “no cleaning” treatment, the first 100-g sample of ground beef run through the grinder contained 24.42 ± 10.41% pork, while subsequent samples (n = 14) contained <0.2% pork. With “partial cleaning,” the first sample of ground beef contained 4.60 ± 0.3% pork and subsequent samples contained <0.2% pork. Pork was not detected in ground beef following “complete cleaning.” These results indicate that incomplete cleaning of grinding equipment leads to species cross-contamination at levels of <1% in most cases. Proper sanitation procedures must be followed when grinding multiple species in order to prevent cross-contamination and product mislabeling.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Food Control. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Food Control, volume 109, in 2019.

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