New technology boost for food safety, says Chr. Hansen

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bacteria

A new phage based product is designed to reduce contamination of cattle and poultry by bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, claims a global biotechnology company.

Chr. Hansen said it has recently acquired a bacteriophage based technology to fight pathogens from the Indian/Canadian manufacturer, GangaGen.

Jan Kuhlmann, VP animal health and nutrition at Chr. Hansen, told that the phage is designed as an in-feed product and can be given to animals two weeks prior to slaughter.

He explained that bacteriophages are viruses that target bacteria, rather than human, plant or animal cells, and that they use adhesion structures to bind to their bacterial hosts.

Burden reduction

According to Kuhlmann, the in-feed phage reduces the level of pathogens by 85 to 95 per cent, thereby reducing the burden for food manufacturers at the meat processing stage.

“Contamination of beef with E. coli strain 0157 creates public health risks and is of concern to the meat packaging and processing industry.

“Our bacteriophage technology is uniquely suited to address this problem because it can be used to treat animals just before slaughter and greatly reduce the risk of contamination of meat products. The treatment is short and simple with no risk to humans,”​ he added.

Market release

Kuhlmann said that Chr. Hansen will be releasing the phage technology targeted at E. coli ​on the North American market initially, and the company is currently awaiting regulatory approval for the product from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 60,000 cases of E. coli infections in 2007 in North America alone.

US food safety advocate and attorney William Marler said that​in the last year and a half, the US meat industry has been in a spiral of recalls, with more than 40 million pounds of meat tainted with E. coli O157:H7​ publicly recalled.

He claims that this is resulting in consumers being exposed to a completely unacceptable level of contaminated product.

Other phages

Kuhlman said that the phage products to treat salmonella​ and campylobacter ​are in the development stage: “We have collated a number of strains and are in the process of identifying which of these are the most potent in regard to the particular pathogens.”

The salmonella ​and campylobacter​ products will be released globally, upon approval, within the next 12 to 24 months, continued Kuhlmann.

E. coli vaccine

Meanwhile, Econiche, a vaccine for cattle that aims to reduce the risk of food and waterborne contamination from E. coli O157:H7 ​bacteria, received approval from the Canadian regulator last October.

The vaccine is currently available on the Canadian market, and Bioniche said it is working to meet the requirements for a US licence for the vaccine.

Bioniche Life Sciences said its vaccine works by preventing the E. coli O157:H7 ​organism from attaching to the intestines of vaccinated cattle, thereby reducing their reproduction within the animal, and reducing the amount of bacteria that can be released through cattle manure in the environment.

According to the company, more than 30,000 cattle have been involved in clinical testing of the vaccine over the past five years.

Related topics Processing & packaging

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