Evaluating E. coli O157 control in Finnish primary production

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 3, March 2014, pp. 352-521 , pp. 371-379(9)

Leimi, Anna; Mikkelä, Antti; Tuominen, Pirkko


Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) has become a threat in the modern cattle sector because of its adverse impact on human health. Systems have been developed to reduce the risk of EHEC infection associated with the beef production chain. In Finland, the risk management of EHEC is mainly targeted at primary production, which is controlled by a national program. The prevalence of E. coli O157 in slaughter animals and herds finnish-04appears to have remained relatively low over the years (0.2 to1.2% and 0.3 to 1.5%, respectively). The effectiveness of the Finnish EHEC control program (FECP) was analyzed with a Bayesian statistical model based on the results from 2006 through 2010. According to the model, the estimated true prevalence of EHEC in slaughter animals was at its highest in 2007 (95% credible interval [CI], 0.94 to 1.85% of animals), and the estimated true prevalence in herds was its highest in 2007 (95% CI, 1.28 to 2.55% of herds). However, the estimated probability of the FECP detecting an EHEC-positive slaughter animal or herd was 0.52 to 0.58% and 4.74 to 6.49%, respectively. The inability to detect EHEC-positive animals was partly due to animal-based random sampling, which ignores herd-level testing and therefore emphasizes the testing of slaughter animals from herds that send more animals to slaughter. Some slaughterhouses collected samples incorrectly as a consequence of an incorrectly implemented FECP. Farmers may also have questionable reasons for choosing to send animals to be slaughtered in small abattoirs, in which testing is less likely, to avoid suspicion of EHEC or other zoonotic infections.