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The aim of this survey was to obtain data on microbiological contamination of pig carcasses and environments in three large-scale Italian slaughterhouses (identified as A-B-C) located in Northern Italy. Each slaughterhouse was visited six times. Five carcasses and three different sites of the slaughterhouse (before and during slaughter) were sampled on each sampling day. A single pooled caecal sample was taken on each sampling day. A total of 90 carcasses, 108 environmental samples and 18 caecal samples were collected. Samples from pig carcasses and slaughterhouse environment were analyzed for total viable count (TVC), Enterobacteriaceae count (EBC) and Salmonella. The caecal contents were examined for Salmonella. Carcasses from slaughterhouse A presented the greatest TVC and EBC mean log value, whereas environmental samples collected during slaughter activities from slaughterhouse C showed the greatest TVC and EBC mean log value. As far as the environmental samples collected before slaughter activities are concerned, an average up to 6 log10 colony forming unit (CFU)/cm2 TVC in two slaughter plants (A and C) and 5 log10 CFU/cm2 TVC in one slaughter plant (B) was detected. Salmonella was recovered in two slaughterhouses (A and B). Four different Salmonella serotypes were detected in the positive samples (11). Within serotype S. Rissen and S. Typhimurium monophasic-variant isolates, two pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns were identified. The findings in this survey suggest that carcass contamination is influenced by the slaughterhouse plant and this could be a result of differences in line speed. The results of environmental sampling have not shown an association with the slaughterhouse plant.
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