Seeking ways to prevent some of the most serious foodborne illnesses caused by pathogenic bacteria, Washington State University scientists Meijun Zhu and Lina Sheng have found promise in an ancient but common cooking spice: cinnamon.
Recent findings published in Food Control journal online suggest Cinnamomum cassia oil can work effectively as a natural antibacterial agent in the food industry, according to a WSU news release.
Cassia cinnamon is produced primarily in Indonesia, and has a stronger smell than Ceylon, the other common cinnamon variety.
In the study, the essential oil killed several strains of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli), known to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “non-O157 STEC.” Sheng said in the release that about 110,000 cases of illness are caused annually by non-O157 STEC.
The study closely investigated the top six strains of non-O157 STEC. About 10 drops of cinnamon cassia oil diluted in a liter of water killed all six bacteria strains within 24 hours, the release said.
The study results add to a body of knowledge that will help improve food safety and reduce or eliminate cases of food poisoning and related deaths.
“The oil can be incorporated into films and coatings for packaging both meat and fresh produce,” Sheng said in the release. “It can also be added into the washing step of meat, fruits or vegetables to eliminate microorganisms.”
In addition to Cinnamomum cassia oil, the scientists plan to take a look at another natural source to kill bacteria. Sheng and Zhu will study the potential of dandelions to inhibit bacteria related to bovine mastitis, an infection in the mammary glands of dairy cows.
The article, “Inhibitory effect of Cinnamomum cassia oil on non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli,” will be published in the print version of Food Control in December.