Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered a naturally occurring lantibiotic (a peptide produced by a harmless bacteria) that can be added to food to kill harmful bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and listeria.
True, it’s a little late for the 77 Americans who got sick with salmonella poisoning after eating Cargill ground turkey…but it’s still great news.
The U of M lantibiotic is the first natural preservative found to kill gram-negative bacteria, typically the harmful kind. “It’s aimed at protecting foods from a broad range of bugs that cause disease,” said Dan O’Sullivan, a professor of food science and nutrition in the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. “Of the natural preservatives, it has a broader umbrella of bugs that it can protect against.”
The lantibiotic could be used to prevent harmful bacteria in meats, processed cheeses, egg and dairy products, canned foods, seafood, salad dressing, fermented beverages and many other foods. In addition to food safety benefits, lantibiotics are easy to digest, nontoxic, do not induce allergies and are difficult for dangerous bacteria to develop resistance against.
And considering that Salmonella and E. coli, both gram-negative bacteria, account for more than half of all food recalls in the United States, this is pretty awesome news for American food producers.
What Happens Next?
The U of Minn’s Office for Technology Commercialization is currently seeking a licensee for the technology.