The introduction of lactic acid bacteria to bagged salad leaves may ward off Salmonella and Listeria, the proposed study suggests.
In a partnership with Horticulture Innovation Australia, the University of Queensland are partaking in a two-year, $800,000 project to investigate the issue.
Using a new bacteria commercialised by Uniquest, the project looks to develop a deeper understanding of pathogens such as Salmonella and Listeria, with hopes of making the Australian vegetable industry safer.
From bagged salads and sprouts alone, more than 300 people in Victoria and South Australia have suffered food-borne illness in 2016. According to Associate Professor Mark Turner of UQ’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, this has had an adverse effect on Australian businesses.
He suggested that “the recent Salmonella outbreaks have had a significant impact on the vegetable industry”. Pathogen contamination can be difficult to control and “methods to remove or kill pathogens, such as washes and chlorine treatments are only partially effective”.
What Will the Project Do?
The project aims to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria on vegetables. The proposed bacteria has an extensive history in improving food safety and has been used for food fermentations including dairy, beverages, meat and vegetables. They can be considered “probiotics for veggies”, according to Professor Turner.
Professor Turner believes that the bacteria improves the health benefits of salad products and provides an “added safety hurdle which can be used across a wide range of fresh and processed veggies”. If the project is successful, the new bacteria will rejuvenate the vegetable industry and as a result, will improve the health of Australian consumers.
Every year within Australia, approximately one million people visit doctors with food poisoning. It is estimated that 32,000 of these patients require hospital admission and 86 people die. Food-borne illness outbreaks from pathogens such as Salmonella and Listeria occur frequently. To overcome the threat of food-borne illness throughout Australia, education is vital.