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EPA approved antimicrobial could control listeria in food plants

By Jane Byrne - 01-Jul-2008

A phage-based decontaminant has been sanctioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US for use as antimicrobial against Listeria monocytogenes in food processing plants, says its developers.

Intralytix, a biotechnology firm, said that its novel food safety product, ListShield has already received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive effective against Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eat foods. John Vazzana, chief executive officer of Intralytix, told FoodProductionDaily.com that the EPA registration now enables food manufacturers to use ListShield on food processing equipment as well as on ready-to-eat food products.

Listeriosis is a rare but potentially lethal infection that can kill vulnerable people, such as the elderly and pregnant women, as well as those suffering from immuno-compromising diseases like cancer or HIV.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2,500 people are estimated to be seriously ill with listeriosis each year with about 500 of that total dying. Most cases of the infection are caused by the consumption of ready-to-eat foods, which support growth of the bacteria.

Spray application

Vazzana claims that the antimicrobial agent can be sprayed onto equipment and food produce such as coleslaw, unpasteurized cheese, pasteurized milk, delicatessen and other types of meat products.

"As ListShield is an all natural product it will not corrode or damage equipment nor alter a food product's general composition, taste, odour or colour," said Vazzana.

Expansion

Vazzana said that that ListShield is more costly than some chemicals but that it is competitively priced in comparison to other types of anti-microbial interventions.

The phage-based product has already been put on the market in the US but Intralytix intends to expand into other markets, Vazzana said.

"We plan to initiate regulatory approval in the EU in the next two months with the help of a European customer, who will use ListShield on products being shipped to the US," he said.

Prevention efforts

Meanwhile, a recent report from FoodNet, a surveillance network of the CDC, claims that the numbers of foodborne infections in the US have stagnated after a period of decline, indicating the need for further prevention efforts.

The study shows outbreaks of campylobacter, listeria, salmonella, shigella, E.coli O157, vibrio, and yersinia "did not decline significantly."

"The results show that prevention efforts have been partly successful, but there has been little further progress in the most recent years," said Dr Robert Tauxe, deputy director of CDC"ēs division of foodborne, bacterial and mycotic diseases. "More needs to be done to make our food safer."

Jul 01, 2008

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