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Bacteriophages can reduce Salmonella in meat products by 90%

An old technology that uses natural bacteria predators, called bacteriophages, is the focus of new research at the University of Nevada, Reno. 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 in Texas.
“We were able to reduce salmonella by as much as 90% 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.”
De Mello was invited to speak about his research at the 69th Annual AMSA Reciprocal Meat Conference in San Angelo, Texas. Overall, his research focuses on positively impacting meat industry operations, production costs, meat quality attributes and animal welfare.
His broad research program approaches important “from farm-to-table” steps such as animal welfare, meat quality and food safety. His current research is related to pre-slaughter physical conditions, value-added products, pre- and post-harvest food safety interventions, effects of physiologic parameters on muscle-to-meat transformation, beef nutritional values and control of salmonella and E. coli during processing.

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