Researchers at the Escola Superior de Biotecnologia (ESB) of Universidade Católica Portuguesa, in Porto, managed to eliminate and control in the milk the bacteria that causes listeriosis, based on an alternative and “more environmentally friendly” method, was revealed yesterday.
Speaking to Lusa, Paula Teixeira, ESB researcher, said today that the study aimed to develop alternative technologies to eliminate Listeria monocytogenes, the foodborne pathogenic bacterium that “kills the most in Europe and causes more hospitalizations”.
“This is one of the bacteria that most concerns the industry and the scientific community, hence the efforts to combat it”, stressed the professor, adding that the study, published in the scientific journal Food Microbiology, was based on the impact of this bacterium, which causes listeriosis, in milk.
Using a method called “barrier technology”, the researchers simultaneously subjected Listeria to three treatments: to proteins produced by “human-friendly” bacteria, to bacteriophages (viruses that ‘eat’ bacteria) and to a technology “ emerging high pressure ”.
“Combining these three treatments, we managed to control the Listaria. In addition to eliminating it, we prevent any survivors from developing again during storage, ”said Paula Teixeira.
According to the researcher, this combination of treatments, which “has never been used” by the scientific community, is also “more efficient and environmentally friendly”.
“In this treatment, energy efficiency is different because we have less expenses than with conventional milk treatment, which is heat treatment”, he stressed, adding that the team is already applying the method to other food products.
“This study was applied to milk, but we are applying it to other food matrices in which the growth of Listeria can be controlled by chemical agents and, in this case, these chemical agents can be replaced by this combination of barriers. At the moment, we are in the process of publishing a new article in which the combination was applied to charcuterie products ”, he said.
Paula Teixeira pointed out to Lusa that the industry is “very open” to this type of solutions, because the introduction of antimicrobial bacteria does not jeopardize food quality standards.
A few days away from celebrating World Food Security Day, which is celebrated on Sunday, the researcher stressed that “food security remains of little relevance for the general population”.
“People attach little importance to food security. Every year we talk about the 23 million cases of foodborne illness, 5,000 deaths in Europe and it seems that these numbers do not change people’s views, ”he said, adding that the number of cases of listeriosis in Europe“ has also increased in last years”.
According to the researcher, the motto of the World Health Organization (WHO) this year to celebrate World Food Safety Day is that this is “everyone’s responsibility”, including scientists, consumers, governments, producers and distributors.