Researchers from University of Minnesota claim to have discovered a natural way to guard food against harmful bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and listeria.
The naturally occurring lantibiotic - a peptide produced by a harmless bacteria - is the first natural preservative found to kill gram-negative bacteria, typically the harmful kind.
"It's aimed at protecting foods from a broad range of bugs that cause disease," said Dan O'Sullivan, a professor of food science and nutrition in the university's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
"Of the natural preservatives, it has a broader umbrella of bugs that it can protect against," he added.
The lantibiotic could be used to prevent harmful bacteria in meats, processed cheeses, egg and dairy products, canned foods, seafood, salad dressing, fermented beverages and many other foods. In addition to food safety benefits, lantibiotics are easy to digest, nontoxic, do not induce allergies and are difficult for dangerous bacteria to develop resistance against.
O'Sullivan discovered the lantibiotic by chance, while researching the genome of bacteria.
The U of M's Office for Technology Commercialization is currently seeking a licensee for the technology.