The present study seeks to assess the microbial quality of raw beef as well as the concentration of heavy metals in cattle hide at retail outlets in the Tarkwa Municipality. A total of 384 replicated swab samples were taken from beef, knives, wooden boards, weighing scales, shop floor as well as workers hands. Also 24 replicated freshly singed and unsinged cattle hides were aseptically collected. Sampling was done at selected retail outlets in Central Market (Layout) and Karikwanaano Markets.
Averagely, 2.55±0.27 (log10 cfu/cm²), 2.06±0.22 (log10 cfu/cm²), and 1.57±0.17 (log10 cfu/cm²) of total viable count (TVC), total coliform count (TCC) and total Staphylococcal Counts (TSC) were recorded respectively on all swab samples from retail outlets. There were significant microbial growth differences across the various retail sale environments. Microbial loads in the fresh swab sample (tvc = 1.36±0.21 (log10 cfu/cm²), tcc = 1.10±0.16 (log10 cfu/cm²), tsc = 0.87±0.13 (log10 cfu/cm²), were significantly lower than delayed swab samples (tvc = 3.74±0.37 (log10 cfu/cm²), tcc = 3.02±0.30 (log10 cfu/cm²), tsc = 2.28±0.24 (log10 cfu/cm²). Comparatively, a significant microbial growth (p < 0.05) was observed on the beef to the environmental equipment. The average pH reading in this study was slightly acidic (6.88±0.78), then peaking acidity in the afternoon. Foodborne pathogens isolated from beef, its processing equipments and the surrounding environment included Staphylococcus spp., Salmonella, Streptococcus spp., Escherichia coli. Enterobacter spp. and Klebsiella spp.
12 cattle hides were singed-treated with scrap tyres (T) while the remaining 12 were firewood processed. The control 24 hides were taken from the un-singed carcasses before the singeing took place. Samples of carcasses hides were analyzed for the concentrations of Fe, Pb, Cu and Zn. The average concentration of all heavy metal contents in hides recorded were lower than the maximum permissible limit except for Lead (Pb). However statistical significance difference between permissible limit (50mg/kg) and observed (23.44±5.70 mg/kg) was recorded only for iron (Fe).The type of processing method (unsinged, firewood-singed and tyre-singed) had a significant effect (p < 0.05) on the levels of heavy metal content recorded in hide. Hide processed with scrap tyre recorded the highest level of heavy metal concentration to fire wood-singed. There was no significance difference (p > 0.05) on the level of heavy metal content of hide among the two retail markets.
The microbial load of raw beef from retail outlet in Tarkwa Municipality is high which insinuates its possible role in spoilage in foodborne illness. Therefore there is the need for improvement in the standard of selling meat in Tarkwa Municipality. The hides treated with scrap tyres were unsafe for human consumption. Therefore there should be the enforcement of stringent laws in Ghana to stop local butchers from using scrap tyres as singeing material.

1.1 General Background
Meat has long been known for its nutritive composition, which explains why it is consumed by many people worldwide. The basic constituents of protein profile of meat consist of amino acids that have been described as excellent due to the presence of all essential amino acids required for the body. Meat is a major source of nutrient in our meals. However, it can also serve as a rich medium of growth for harmful microorganisms. The United Nations Environmental Program Report (2014), agreed on new standards to protect the health of consumers worldwide. It reported that, food can become contaminated by heavy metals, fungal toxins or bacteria and viruses.

WHO (1997) reported that, meat infected with microorganisms is the cause of many food-borne diseases. The animals (Animal Source Food) themselves or from outside may be the source of these pathogenic microorganisms. Contamination of meat by pathogenic microorganisms is as a result of the surroundings where these animals are kept as well as the way they are processed after slaughtering (Adeyemo, 2002).

Effective sanitation has a remarkable impact on the profit of meat processors and retailers by reducing spoilage and providing a longer shelf life. Proper sanitation also helps maintain meat colour, which leads to more sales and reduced labour cost ( Adentunde et al., 2011 and Obeng et al., 2013). They further reported that, good sanitation will provide a healthy, clean environment, which upgrades the image and reputation of the store (sales point). While food borne diseases remain an important environment and public health problem worldwide, one of the most significant food safety hazards is associated with food from animals (Adu-Gyamfi et al., 2012; Kivi et al, 2007; Maripandi and Al-Salamah, 2010). A study by Fratamico et al. (2005) stated that food-borne pathogens are the leading cause of illness and death in developing countries costing billions of dollars in medical care and social costs.

The WHO has described Food Borne Disease (FBD’s) as illness of an infections or toxic nature caused by, or thought to have been caused by the consumption of food and water. It estimates up to a third of people in developed countries are affected by FDB’s (WHO, 2009). Food and drugs Authority (FDA) in 2010 reported that, total number of out-patients reported with food borne diseases in Ghana in 2009 was about 20,000 per year, with an annual death rate estimate at 6,500 and total cost to the economy at US 69 million. According to the Ghana Health Service (GHS) the total number of sick persons associated with food-borne illnesses for the period of 2011 in Ghana was 2.2 million, whiles the associated losses for 2010, based on the hypothesis that food borne illness were diarrhoea diseases was GH¢ 29.4 million (approximately US$ 13.01million at a rate of 1$ to GH¢ 2.26 (Ghana Stock Exchange, January 2014). This figure came from health care costs to the Government, individuals and the loss of about 4.6 million working days (Ghana FAO/WB CP, 2012).

Food borne diseases are caused by the consumption of foods exposed to hazards that may be biological or pathogenic (eg. Parasites, bacteria, viruses), chemical (eg. Toxins and heavy metals), and other physical (eg, bone chips, and glass fragments) (Melngaile et al., 2014). Obeng et al., (2013) and Khalafalla et al., 2011 reported in their study that, although there could be the presence of contaminant on meats, it does not necessarily make the meat unwholesome. However the presence of the microbial isolates such as Streptococcus spp., Staphylococcus spp., Salmonella, and Escherichia coli on meat sold in retail outlets is worrying due to their ability to cause diseases. Improper or unhygienic handling by butchers and retailers, processing, transportation, storage, sanitary conditions at various retail outlets, and environmental conditions may be the most probable sources of contamination. 62% of all human pathogens are zoonotic as reported by Mukhopadhyay et al. (2009), which more or less agrees with the World Organisation for Animal Health Report (2012) that states 75% of all emerging human diseases originate from animal reservoirs. Consequently, Animal Sourced Foods (ASF) have been found guilty for the majority of FBD’s (Clarence et al., 2009), and incidences increase with increasing access to such foods especially without adequate hygiene, inspection for safety or satisfactory heating to kill pathogen (Kra et al., 2011).

Rapid urbanization and swift way of living, as a result of increased demand for ready to cook and ready to eat meat products have substantially changed the food habits of most Ghanaians as noted in Table 1.3 and its index of production of meat in Table 1.4 (MoFA, SRID, 2011). Some of the factors consumers consider in their choice of meat product are the quality and type, value for money, freshness and health aspects of meat food products (Selvan et al., 2007). There is a steady shift to Animal Source Food (ASF) across developing countries (DC’s) (Popkin, 2003). This assertion reflects the gradual increase in animal meat production in Ghana, (Table 1.1) and therefore their production index, (Table 1.2) in response to an almost exclusive domestic demand (Ghana; MoFa: SRID, 2011).

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