12 January - 20 June 2016

Adding bacteriophages to absorbent food pads may improve food preservation

Bacterial growth in meat products is a costly and damaging issue which reduces the shelf life of foods and poses a danger to health. Existing methods of slowing or eliminating the spread of microorganisms are largely effective, but as researchers at the University of Viçosa in Brazil recently demonstrated, there is still room for improvement.

Bacterial growth in meat products is a costly and damaging issue which reduces the shelf life of foods and poses a danger to health. Existing methods of slowing or eliminating the spread of microorganisms are largely effective, but as researchers at the University of Viçosa in Brazil recently demonstrated, there is still room for improvement.

Lytic bacteriophages (viruses which infect and destroy bacterial cells) were investigated as a method of controlling the spread of bacteria, delivered via the absorbent pads found in existing chilled meat packaging. A variety of phage strains, affecting the bacterium Salmonella Typhimurium, were proven to significantly reduce bacterial growth in both solid and liquid media environments, with the phage units remaining viable for at least 48 hours. The effectiveness of the phage is directly related to the growth of the host – at 15 Celsius, more bacteria are available over time for the virus to colonise than at 10 Celsius – but overall reductions in growth were seen at both temperatures compared to a non-phage control. If the phage can be incorporated – whilst retaining viability – into commercial packaging, this could provide another line of defence against bacterial contamination of chilled meat products: however, the researchers stress that such methods would be designed to complement, rather than replace, existing hygiene and GMP measures.

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