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Beef industry sharply reduces E. coli; More progress needed with salmonella

Beef industry sharply reduces E. coli; More progress needed with salmonella

Food safety experts report that the nation’s beef industry has done a remarkable job of dealing with carcass contamination involving E. coli. Incidences of E. coli O157 positives in ground beef sampling have dropped by more than 90 percent in the last decade, but the same decline hasn’t been seen in the incidence of Salmonella in ground beef.

“We haven’t seen a decrease in human incidence of Salmonella. Admittedly there are many sources of Salmonella – in poultry, eggs, etc. – but the beef industry is asking itself why our traditional approach so effectively manages E. coli O157 but has not meaningfully reduced Salmonella in ground beef,” said Guy Loneragan, a professor of food safety and public health with Texas Tech’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences. Loneragan is a member of the USDA’s National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods

Loneragan, who’s been engaged in Salmonella research for more than a dozen years, believes the industry needs to rethink its understanding of Salmonella and how it behaves within and between cattle. “In many situations, it doesn’t sicken the animal,” he said.” Obviously, some strains are very pathogenic and we want to control those, but there are also many strains that don’t cause harm.”

Separately, Loneragan said work is underway on vaccine technology, such as Zoetis’ Salmonella SRP vaccine. “We’re trying to identify where the vaccine works most effectively. We’ve also been looking at a probiotic called, Bovamine Defend, made by Nutrition Physiology Co. This also looks promising. Perhaps we can control this issue pre-harvest, or reduce it enough to have a meaningful impact,” he said.

Reporting by Heather Smith Thomas

CONTACT: Guy Loneragan, professor, Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2805 ext. 268 or


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