Natural solutions to foodborne illness

by Stephanie Bloyd
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WASHINGTON — The cure for foodborne illness outbreaks may be growing in the common garden. New studies pitching natural spice oils against pathogens like E. coli may prove promising in the fight against food contamination.

Research conducted by Mendel Friedman, a chemist with the Agricultural Research Service (A.R.S.) branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.), found that oils and extracts from spices and herbs, such as oregano, thyme, cinnamon and clove, have antimicrobial properties that were strong enough to kill E. coli, Salmonella enterica and Listeria monocytogenes.

The results of Mr. Friedman’s initial research, conducted in 2002, are being applied to new studies on edible films designed to promote food safety. The films are based on food ingredients, and measure only five-thousandths of an inch thick. The edible films currently being studied are made from pureed spinach and apples that are infused with oils like carvacrol, a compound found in oregano.

An edible apple film with carvacrol was found to kill E. coli in an A.R.S. study, which now is exploring the film’s potential for use in bagged leafy greens.

The team’s most recent work was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Visit the
ARS site to learn more. FBN

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