Compound stops Listeria spread during food processing

Researchers at the University of Houston have discovered a new compound, cobalt-doped titanium-dioxide (CoO-TiO2), that could halt the reproduction of Listeria monocytogenes and other bacteria in food products.

Doughman Headshot3 Headshot
Mark Balyshev | Fotolia.com
Mark Balyshev | Fotolia.com

Researchers at the University of Houston have discovered a new compound, cobalt-doped titanium-dioxide (CoO-TiO2), that could halt the reproduction of Listeria monocytogenes and other bacteria in food products.

“The compound that we used in this study is basically a heavy metal in combination with the titanium-dioxide. It worked well to stop the replication of Listeria,” Sujata Sirsat, assistant professor at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, said.

Approximately 1,600 people get listeriosis, a serious infection caused by the germ Listeria monocytogenes, in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most Listeria infections result from eating contaminated soft cheeses, celery, sprouts, cantaloupe and ice cream, although contaminated poultry can also be a cause.

Listeria is also one of the rare foodborne pathogens that can survive refrigerated conditions.

Activates in light and dark

Titanium-dioxide is commonly used as an additive in sauces, dressings and powdered foods and as a catalyst for the chemical industry.

“Titanium-dioxide is one of the most investigated catalysts on the planet. However, it has a big disadvantage. It only works in the presence of ultraviolet light, a costly and dangerous carcinogen,” explained Francisco Robles, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology.

With the help of undergraduate researchers, Robles combined the titanium-dioxide with cobalt, a heavy metal. The resulting compound can halt bacterial reproduction in both light and dark conditions, including freezers.

The researchers believe the compound could help reduce the risk of Listeria and other gram-positive bacterial outbreaks in food processing facilities.

“Listeria thrives in moist, cool environments, like poultry processing facilities. Adding this compound to an antimicrobial reagent could help slow the spread, although toxicity testing in cell lines and animal models is needed first to assess safety before the compound can be used in real-world settings,” Sirsat said.

The research was published in the Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering.

Like what you just read? Sign up now for free to receive the Poultry Future Newsletter.

Page 1 of 34
Next Page