The purpose of the study was to determine microbial contamination of mutton carcass surface with regard to the number of the slaughtered animals. The total bacterial load and Enterobacteriaceae and enterococci counts were determined. Sampling for microbiological analysis as well as detection and enumeration of each microorganism group were performed according to the Polish Standards. No significant effect of the order of the slaughtering animals during the slaughter day on total bacterial count on mutton carcass surfaces was found. The overall bacterial contamination of mutton carcasses were between 1.0 × 103 cfu/cm2 (3.0 log - stage I) and 2.5 × 103 cfu/cm2 (3.4 log - stage III). No significant difference among the slaughter cycles, as indicated by total microbial numbers was observed. The obtained daily mean log values ranged from 4.7 × 102 (2.67 log) and 7.6 × 103 (3.88 log) cfu/cm2. The daily log mean values were lower than the maximal bacteria count (M) set out for hygiene standard of sheep slaughter process by the Commission Regulation 2073/2005. Bacteria belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family were recovered from 21 (65.6%) samples while enterococci were identified in 28 (87.5%) samples. In most cases, significant differences in the level of contamination with bacteria isolated from the carcasses at each stage of a daily slaughter cycle, were not observed. At stage III, significantly higher levels of bacterial contamination (0.86 and 1.31 log cfu/cm2 respectively) were established as compared to stage I (0.37 and 0.58 log cfu/cm2 respectively). There were no Salmonella-positive samples determined. Importantly, the number of slaughtered animals during a slaughter day did not influence bacterial contamination on carcass surface if the successful application of HACCP control system was combined with the implementation of optimal sanitary supervision.
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