Salmonella in meat products was reduced by up 90% in new research carried out at the University of Nevada, USA, sparking hopes that the findings can be adopted commercially by the meat industry.
The research, which centred on the use of natural bacteria predators called bacteriophages, was headed by the university’s Professor Amilton de Mello, who is part of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources department.
“We were able to reduce salmonella by as much as 90% in ground poultry, ground pork and ground beef,” he told this week’s international American Meat Science Association conference in Texas. “We’re excited to be able to show such good results as food safety is an important part of our work and salmonella is one of the most prevalent bacteria in the nation’s food supply.”
The research involved treating meat products which had been infected with four types of salmonella by applying bacteriophages during mixing.
“Bacteriophages are commonly found in our environment,” explained Prof. de Mello (pictured above). “They are viruses that can only harm specific bacterial cells and are harmless to humans, animals and plants.”
In his team’s 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,” he said. “The results are very encouraging and we’re hoping this can be adopted by the meat industry to increase food safety.”