Ready-to-eat (RTE) meats are products sold to consumers which do not require significant further processing except re-heating or completion of cooking process. These meats may constitute a likely potential hazard to human health due to non-compliance with food safety regulations by food handlers. This study was aimed at evaluating the bacteriological safety of RTE roasted meats sold by selected food vendors in Lukaya and Najembe highway markets. Bacteriological analyses were conducted on 20 samples for each of the three meat products which included chicken, beef and goat meat during dry and wet seasons. ISO standard methods were used in the laboratory to test for presence of coliforms, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Most samples (68.3%) were contaminated and exceeded the recommended microbial contaminant limit (MCL). S. aureus was high in beef and chicken where it appeared in 85% of the samples for each product. S. aureus was also in 75% of goat meat samples. E. coli was high in chicken (50%), followed by beef (45%) and goat meat (35%) samples. Contamination was slightly higher in the wet season. S. aureus was the main contaminant. Most RTE meats that are sold in highway markets were highly contaminated. This result should draw the attention of relevant authorities to ensure that adequate hygienic standards and regular monitoring of the quality of RTE meats are improved and practiced to avoid possible foodborne infections.
Key words: Ready-to-eat meats, contamination, coliforms, Staphylococcus aureus, highway markets.
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