Bacteriophages and Food Safety

Abstract

Interest in using bacteriophages to improve food safety has been gaining momentum recently, driven by both the continued occurrence of foodborne outbreaks worldwide and the desire of consumers for natural foods. Bacteriophages are naturally part of the normal microflora of many foods, and the ‘phage biocontrol’ approach is based on the concept of using the right phage, in the right place, in the right concentration to control foodborne pathogens. This approach has been applied to three main areas of food safety: (1) pre‐harvest treatment of livestock, (2) decontamination of inanimate surfaces in the processing environment and (3) post‐harvest treatment (i.e. direct food applications). The last type of intervention has perhaps received the most attention, with an increasing number of studies supporting the idea that bacteriophages may provide a safe, environmentally friendly and effective approach for improving food safety, by significantly reducing contamination of various foods with specific foodborne bacterial pathogens.

Key Concepts

  • Bacteriophages may provide a safe, environmentally friendly and effective approach for significantly reducing contamination of various foods with foodborne bacterial pathogens.
  • Several bacteriophage products are commercially available for use in pre‐harvest applications, on food contact surfaces and for direct food (post‐harvest) applications.
  • Bacteriophages are specific; they kill the target pathogen and do not affect the natural microflora of foods.
  • Bacteriophages can reduce levels of bacterial pathogens on food contact surfaces in as little as 5‐min contact time.
  • Bacteriophages can reduce levels of the targeted bacterial pathogen on a variety of foods, including, but not limited to, dairy products, fruits and vegetables and poultry.

Keywords: bacteriophage; phages; food safety; foodborne illness; biocontrol; pathogens; antibacterial

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Further Reading

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Tiwari R, Chakraborty S, Dhama K, et al. (2014) Wonder world of phages: potential biocontrol agents safeguarding biosphere and health of animals and humans‐current scenario and perspectives. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences 17: 316–328.

Vandamme EJ (2014) Phage therapy and phage control: to be revisited urgently!!. Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology 89: 329–333.

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Woolston, Joelle, and Sulakvelidze, Alexander(Mar 2015) Bacteriophages and Food Safety. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0025962]