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Harness spices to kill E. coli.

Common kitchen spices, such as garlic, cinnamon and clove, can kill the most dangerous strain of E. coli. Kansas State University scientists (Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, Manhattan, KS 66506) have confirmed the preliminary findings of a study pairing familiar spices with uncooked consumer beef. In the first part of the study, investigators tested 23 spices against E. coli O157:H7 in the laboratory. They found that several spices are good at killing this strain of E. coli.

Garlic, clove, cinnamon, oregano and sage each killed the bacteria in varying amounts. In the laboratory study, garlic killed the organism completely. None of the other 18 spices tested was successful in killing E. coli O157:H7. The five bacteria-killers were then used in the second part of the study. Scientists introduced approximately 100,000 E. coli O157:H7 bacteria/g to store-bought ground beef, then separately added the spices. Again, the spices killed the bacteria.

Of the five, garlic and clove proved best at killing E. coli O157:H7. Garlic was best in the laboratory study, while clove was the best of the spices added directly to ground beef. In both parts of the study, the five spices killed E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in varying amounts. E. coli O157:H7 is present in less than 1% of the U.S. food supply, but it is believed to be the most toxic strain of the bacteria. In severe cases, E. coli O157:H7 causes death in humans.

Consumers will still have to take care in handling beef and will still have to heat the product. Spice may provide an additional killing effect alongside the heat treatment. The exact combination of spice and heat needs to be tested, however. An additional aspect of the research is to extract the active ingredient in these spices that is killing E. coli 0157:H7 and understand why it does this.

Another university study combined spices with salami and other fermented sausages. The spices were able to kill E. coli O157:H7 introduced to fermented sausage. This has special significance for sausage lovers, since some sausage products often are not heated. The data show that the spices are effective in killing this strain of E. coli.

Further information. Daniel Fung; phone: 913-532-5654; fax: 913-532-5681.
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Publication:Microbial Update International
Date:Feb 1, 1999
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