The objective of the current study was to determine the incidence of contamination by the top 7 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O-groups, responsible for the majority of E. coli infections in human beings, in retail meat from different animal species. Samples from ground beef (n = 51), ground pork (n = 16), ground chicken (n = 16), and game meat (deer, wild boar, bison, and rabbit; n = 55) were collected from retail vendors for the detection of 7 STEC O-groups (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, O145, and O157). Meat samples were tested by using a multiplex polymerase chain reaction assay targeting the wzx gene of O antigen gene clusters of the 7 STEC O-groups. The positive samples were further tested for Shiga toxin genes (stx1 and stx2). Out of a total of 83 ground beef, pork, and chicken samples, 17 (20%) carried O121, 9 (10%) carried O45, 8 (9%) carried O157, 3 (3%) carried O103, and 1 (1%) carried O145. None of the samples were positive for O26, O111, or the stx gene. All 3 white-tailed deer samples (100%) were positive for O45, O103, or both, 2 (10%) out of 20 red deer samples exhibited the presence of O103, and all 3 bison samples were contaminated with either O121, O145, or O157. One sample from ground deer, contaminated with E. coli O45, carried the stx1 gene. This preliminary investigation illustrates the importance of microbiological testing of pathogens in meat products, as well as the recognized need for increased surveillance and research on foodborne pathogens.
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