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Bacteria predators reduce salmonella in food 90%

Staff writer ▼ | June 27, 2016
An old technology that uses natural bacteria predators, called bacteriophages, is the focus of new research at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Amilton de Mello
Meat industry   One of the most common causes of food borne illnesses
The technique is being used to reduce salmonella bacteria in meat products.

Assistant Professor Amilton de Mello, from the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno, presented his research at the international American Meat Science Association's conference that ends today in Texas.

"We were able to reduce salmonella by as much as 90 percent in ground poultry, ground pork and ground beef," de Mello reported. "We're excited to be able to show such good results, food safety is an important part of our work and salmonella is one of the most prevalent bacteria in the nation's food supply."

Salmonella is one of the most common causes of food borne illnesses in the United States. The bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal cramps. In people with weaker immune systems, or in young children and the elderly, it can be fatal. It is estimated to cause one million foodborne illnesses in the United States every year, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

De Mello's research treated meat products infected with four types of salmonella by applying Myoviridae bacteriophages during mixing. Bacteriophages are commonly found in our environment. They are viruses that can only harm specific bacterial cells and are harmless to humans, animals and plants.

In the experiments, the salmonella bacteria was inoculated on refrigerated meat and poultry trim, then the treatment was applied to the meat before grinding. The bacteriophages invaded the cells of the bacteria and destroyed them.

"On the final ground meat products, there was a 10-fold decrease of salmonella," de Mello said. "The results are very encouraging and we're hoping this can be adopted by the meat industry to increase food safety."


 

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