Significant bioaerosol concentrations were detected in beef slaughter facilities
Airflow was modeled in beef facilities and potential pathogens were tracked
Results indicate transport of bioaerosols toward chiller with final food product
New ventilation designs indicate that plant sanitation can be improved
Additional studies are required to verify effectiveness of new ventilation
and Shiga toxin producing (STEC) have long been recognized as pathogens of concern in meat products due to the prevalence of these microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract and hide of livestock. Bacterial ingestion due to contaminated food products causes a great economic burden from the hospitalization and death of those who become infected. Recently, aerosolized bacteria have been recognized as a threat to human health and shelf life of food. In beef processing facilities, the majority of harmful bacteria are introduced by the cattle. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can harbor and transport these microscopic organisms. Salmonella and STEC cause 78 billion dollars lost every year due to contaminated food. During the harvesting process, these pathogens may become aerosolized from the carcasses by various mechanisms, including worker activity and airflow from HVAC systems. Although bacteria are robust creatures, environmental conditions including ventilation can be manipulated to disrupt their proliferation. In this study, one rural and one small beef facility were examined. High air volume wetted wall cyclone bioaerosol samplers capable of collecting and concentrating bioaerosols in a liquid effluent were used during the entire processing at bleeding, de-limbing, de-hiding, washing, and chiller locations. Bioaerosols were analyzed using microbial plating, quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction, and microbiome analysis. Total bacteria counts, STEC, and concentrations were enumerated in the air and critical areas were identified. and STEC were found to increase with each passing day in the facility, as well, total counts and STEC increased between morning and afternoon phases of processing. Significant differences in total counts and temperature were found at different locations in the facilities. Blueprints were obtained from the examined facilities and the cattle processing floors were modeled using computational fluid dynamics. The airflow created from the HVAC systems was found to have a significant effect on the spread of bioaerosols. Similarities were found between the collected concentrations of bioaerosols and particle traces in the modeled facilities. Finally, new ventilation models were generated to significantly increase the sanitation of the beef slaughtering process. Keywords: Airflow pattern, Beef processing facilities, Bioaerosols, Computational fluid dynamics modeling (CFD), Displacement ventilation, Wetted Wall Cyclone (WWC). Abstract.