Probiotics in ready-to-eat salads set to reduce Salmonella risk

Queensland researchers harness the benefits of ‘friendly bacteria’ to reduce risk of Salmonella and Listeria in commercially available salads
February 7, 2017

Probiotics are often associated with maintaining good digestive health, and now researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) are working to harness the benefits of probiotics to help ward off salmonella and listeria outbreaks.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad.

Often called "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy, probiotics are naturally found in your body. You can also find them in some foods and supplements with commercially available probiotics often delivered through yoghurts or in capsule form.

Following a string of salmonella outbreaks in 2016 which saw over 300 Victorian and South Australian residents fall victim to food poisoning, researchers from UQ have entered into a partnership with Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited to identify ways to reduce the risk to consumers.

The research program, with a budget of $800,000 over 2 years, aims to commercialise new strains of bacteria that already occur naturally in vegetables, explains Associate Professor Mark Turner of UQ’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences.

“The bacteria we are working with have a long history of safe human consumption and are already used in many food fermentations, including dairy, beverages, meat and vegetables,” he said.

“Higher numbers of the good bacteria means significantly less growth of bad bacteria.”

"We want to increase the level of this bacteria by about 1,000 fold or 10,000 fold."

"Instead of putting them in yoghurt or a capsule, we can put it in a bagged salad, and you can have your dose of probiotics that way," Dr Turner said.

It's hoped that the outcome of this research program will significantly reduce the incidence of food-related illness in ready-to-eat salad products across Australia, while adding only a minimal cost to the preparation process.

Further information on the study is available on the University of Queensland website.