Infusion, irradiation may improve chicken meat safety

by Keith Nunes
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FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. — An infusion of a mixture of organic acids and extracts from plants combined with a dose of irradiation may significantly reduce pathogenic bacteria in and on chicken breast meat, according to researchers at the University of Arkansas System’s Division of Agriculture.

The researchers found they could reduce E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella Typhimurium in the chicken breast by infusing combinations of organic acids, specifically acetic, citric, malic and tartaric — into the meat. The experiments also were performed with extracts from green tea and grape seeds in combination with the acids.

Three of the organic acids — malic, citric and tartaric — were effective against Salmonella Typhimurium and E. coli O157:H7. With irradiation factored in the results were significant against all of the pathogens.

"We want to determine the least amount of plant extracts that we can use and the least amount of irradiation dosage to get the best inhibitory effect," said Navam Hettiarachchy, the food science professor who supervised the project.

Previous research conducted by Ms. Hettiarachchy’s team showed that extracts from grape seed and green tea reduced Listeria monocytogenes to undetectable levels when applied in combination with nisin. The researchers also are using the plant extracts to serve as antioxidants.

The research is continuing, but Ms. Hettiarachchy said a poultry company has already expressed interest in the project’s findings. Irradiation has not yet been applied widely in the United States as many companies have worried about potential resistance among consumers.

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