Research – Detection of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in imported meat products from Saudi Arabian ports in 2017

Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a foodborne pathogen, which causes various health conditions in humans, including fatigue, nausea, bloody diarrhoea and in some cases, even death. In 2017, 15.71% of the total imported food products in Saudi Arabia (SA) were meat-based. India and Brazil are two of the top five countries from where SA imports meat. According to the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, in 2017, at least 562, 280, and 50 samples of imported beef, chicken and sheep meat, respectively, were tested for the presence of E. coli O157:H7. Amongst these, E. coli O157:H7 was detected in respectively 6.80% and 2.20% of the tested beef meat samples imported from India and Brazil as well as in respectively 6.96% and 3.57% of the tested chicken samples imported from Brazil and Ukraine. Moreover, the pathogen was detected in 2.13% of the tested sheep meat samples imported from India. The present report provides evidence that imported meat can serve as the carrier of E. coli O157:H7, which may lead to epidemics within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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