October 23, 2021

Plant Compounds Studied for Food Safety

The USDA and researchers are studying the ability of plant compounds to fight foodborne pathogens. One study, published in Agricultural Research magazine, looked at olive powder and other compounds and their ability to kill E. coli O157:H7 bacteria and reduce the levels of carcinogens in grilled meats. Heterocyclic amines are formed when meats are cooked at high temperatures; those compounds cause cancer.

HamburgerThe scientists added high levels of E. coli O157:H7 to ground beef patties along with olive powder or other plant compounds. They cooked the beef to the safe temperature of 160 degrees F, then tested the patties for levels of E. coli and two of the amines: MelQx and PhIP. They found that olive powder performed the best, beating the performances of other compounds, including apple, onion, and garlic powders. Olive powder reduced MelQX by 80% and PhIP by 84%. Earlier studies have shown that olive powder kills E. coli bacteria, but this is the first study to show that it also reduces amine presence.

More studies will be needed to find the exact chemicals in the olive powder that kill the bacteria and reduce the amine formation. Another issue is taste; researchers need to determine the level of olive powder that makes the food safer but doesn’t interfere with desired taste of the meat.

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