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Tea wash reduces pathogens in meat, say scientists

By Ahmed ElAmin , 08-Mar-2007

Tea could be the wonder ingredient used as surface washes to improve the safety of ready-to-eat meats and vegetable.

Research completed for the US' Food Safety Consortium indicates that a scientific mixture of tea extracts can be used to reduce pathogenic bacteria in meats. With increased consumer concerns about the amount of chemicals in their foods, processors are looking for more natural ways to protect their products from pathogens and other contaminants. Daniel Fung, the Kansas State University food science professor who supervised the research, said the study used extracts from green tea, or Jasmine tea, mixed in some wildflower dark honey. "Our results indicated that Jasmine tea with honey and green tea with honey had the highest antimicrobial activity," said Fung. The tests were first conducted in a liquid medium and found that the tea extract and honey treatments caused significant reductions of Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. "That's not surprising," Fung said. "In liquid medium, it's easier for the compounds to interact with the organisms in liquid." Fung's team moved on to food, which can be a more difficult medium when seeking to cause the type of reaction among the compounds that will inhibit pathogens. The results were good, they said. Treating turkey breast slice with combinations of Jasmine tea extract and wildflower dark honey reduced Listeria monocytogenes by 10 to 20 percent. Similar reductions of the pathogen were recorded when applied to hot dogs. They found the most successful reductions in hot dogs were in those that had been commercially treated with sodium lactate, potassium lactate and sodium diacetate. "In that type of hot dogs, it has much more suppressive effect than in some of the hot dogs without those compounds," Fung said. "There is a synergistic effect of the tea and honey along with those compounds with lactate already in the hot dog." A beneficial side effects of the treatment is shelf life. Fung noted that the experiments showed the hot dogs were still showing reduced levels of pathogens 14 days after the application. Fung said he will now examine possible applications of the mix as a surface wash for meat during processing. It could also be used as way to improve the safety of ready-to eat meats and vegetables, he said. "We're thinking of using tea to wash carcasses because of its natural compounds," he said. ""If you can use tea or honey to wash carcasses instead of lactic acid, you can use a natural compound on the surface of meat."

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