Prevalence and characterization of foodborne pathogens from Australian dairy farm environments

Catherine McAuley, Kate McMillan, Sean Moore, Narelle Fegan, Edward Fox

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81 Citations (Scopus)


The ability of foodborne pathogens to gain entry into food supply systems remains an ongoing concern. In dairy products, raw milk acts as a major vehicle for this transfer; however, the sources of pathogenic bacteria that contaminate raw milk are often not clear, and environmental sources of contamination or the animals themselves may contribute to the transfer. This survey examined the occurrence of 9 foodborne pathogens in raw milk and environments of 7 dairy farms (3 bovine, 3 caprine, and 1 ovine farm) in summer and autumn, in Victoria, Australia. A total of 120 samples were taken from sampling points common to dairy farms, including pasture, soil, feed, water sources, animal feces, raw milk, and milk filters. The prevalence of the Bacillus cereus group, Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens, Cronobacter, Shiga-toxigenic Escherichia coli, Listeria, Salmonella, coagulase-positive staphylococci (CPS), and Yersinia enterocolitica across the farms was investigated. The 2 most prevalent bacteria, which were detected on all farms, were the B. cereus group, isolated from 41% of samples, followed by Cl. perfringens, which was isolated from 38% of samples. The highest occurrence of any pathogen was the B. cereus group in soil, present in 93% of samples tested. Fecal samples showed the highest diversity of pathogens, containing 7 of the 9 pathogens tested. Salmonella was isolated from 1 bovine farm, although it was found in multiple samples on both visits. Out of the 14 occurrences where any pathogen was detected in milk filters, only 5 (36%) of the corresponding raw milk samples collected at the same time were positive for the same pathogen. All of the CPS were Staphylococcus aureus, and were found in raw milk or milk filter samples from 6 of the 7 farms, but not in other sample types. Pathogenic Listeria species were detected on 3 of the 7 farms, and included 4 L. ivanovii-positive samples, and 1 L. monocytogenes-positive water sample. Shiga-toxigenic Escherichia coli were identified in fecal samples from 3 of the 7 farms and in a single raw milk sample. Cronobacter species were identified on 4 of the 7 farms, predominantly in feed samples. No Y. enterocolitica was detected. Results of this study demonstrate high standards of pathogen safety across the 7 farms, with a low incidence of pathogens detected in raw milk samples. Monitoring feed contamination levels may help control the spread of bacterial species such as Cl. perfringens and B. cereus through the farm environment, which is a natural reservoir for these organisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7402-7412
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
Early online date3 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


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