Lantibiotics, a class of antibiotics discovered by an American scientist, could help treat contaminated food.
Produced by a harmless bacteria, lantibiotics could help kill harmful bugs like salmonella, E. coli and listeria in food, according to research.
“It’s aimed at protecting foods from a broad range of bugs that cause disease,” said Dan O’Sullivan, professor of food science and nutrition in the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences who led the study.
“Of the natural preservatives, it has a broader umbrella of bugs that it can protect against,” added O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan discovered the lantibiotic by chance, while researching the genome of bacteria. He collaborated with Ju-Hoon Lee, a Minnesota graduate student to take the research forward.
Besides food safety benefits, lantibiotics are easy to digest, nontoxic, do not induce allergies and are difficult for dangerous bacteria to develop resistance 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.
“Salmonella burden has increased more dramatically than any other food-borne illness,” said Shaun Kennedy, director of the National Center for Food Protection and Defence.
“The largest recall in 2010 for food contamination was eggs contaminated with salmonella.” Salmonella and E. coli account for more than half of all food recalls in the US.