National survey of Salmonella prevalence in lymph nodes of sows and market hogs.
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Livestock are known to harbor Salmonella in their gastrointestinal (GI) tract and lymphatic tissues. Pathogens may be transferred from the GI tract to external carcass surfaces during normal harvest procedures but can be mitigated by antimicrobial carcass interventions. Lymph nodes (LNs) are typically encased in fat and are protected from antimicrobial carcass surface treatments, thus serving as a possible root cause of foodborne illnesses attributed to Salmonella in meat products. Members of the pork industry are committed to food safety and want to better understand Salmonella as a potential contaminant in pork products. To establish a baseline of Salmonella prevalence in porcine LNs across the United States, 21 commercial pork harvest facilities, representing northern (n = 12) or southern (n = 9) geographical regions, participated in this study. As processing volumes allowed, 25 carcasses were selected from each establishment. From each carcass, left and right superficial inguinal LNs (n =1,014 LNs) were removed and pooled to yield one sample per animal or n = 507 total LN samples. Salmonella prevalence rates differed (P < 0.05) between hog types in both regions. Specifically, 6.4% of market hog and 37.0% of sow samples were Salmonella positive in the northern region. This was reversed in the southern region as 13.0% of market hog and 4.8% of sow samples were Salmonella positive. There also was a difference (P < 0.05) in prevalence rates between northern and southern regions for sows, but not market hogs (P > 0.05). Type of chilling method (conventional, blast, or other) used at each market hog facility (n = 12) was documented. In the northern region, prevalence rates of Salmonella across chilling types were as follows: 20.0%, 2.7%, and 1.3% positive samples for conventional, other, and blast chill methods, respectively. In the southern region, 20.0% of samples were positive for conventional, 0.0% for blast, and 12.0% for other chilling methods. In both regions, samples from conventionally chilled carcasses returned more (P < 0.05) positive results than any other chill method. Overall, the higher rate of Salmonella prevalence in northern sows warrants further investigation, and members of the pork industry would benefit from the identification of possible methods to address the presence of Salmonella in porcine LNs.