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Innovation in food processing sanitation

Innovation in food processing sanitation

Researchers from a dairy co-op and the federal government are collaborating to find biological alternatives to cleaning agents in food processing facilities

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

Researchers are conducting cutting-edge innovative research on food safety for dairy products in Canada. Scientists are investigating the use of lytic bacteriophages as natural anti-microbials in dairy processing, Anilda Guri, research scientist at Gay Lea Foods, told

Gay Lea Foods, a Canadian dairy co-operative, and Dr. Hany Anany, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, are collaborating on the project.

Lytic bacteriophages are a type of virus with the potential to destroy harmful pathogens. Lytic bacteriophages do this work by invading pathogenic cells, using the other cell’s organelles to make more bacteriophages, and then destroying the cell by breaking down membranes.

These bacteriophages “are generally recognized as safe,” explained Guri. “They provide natural protection against microbial organisms by selectively targeting and eliminating harmful bacteria, such as Listeria Monocytogenes.”

Before dairy processors can use this approach to sanitize equipment and contact surfaces, however, “more implementation research needs to be done and more pathogenic strains need to be tested,” Guri said. Scientists will do that research using “so called ‘bacteriophage cocktails’ – mixtures of bacteriophages that could address a wider range of pathogens. A scale-up production of this bench research is needed before it can be commercialized.”

The use of bacteriophages in a dairy processing application is still a relatively new concept. Consumers increasingly demand more ecologically friendly techniques and products to meet food safety needs. 

“If this research finds its way to application, it would be a move towards the use of green technologies for food industry sanitation,” Guri said.

The project is part of the Canadian Food Innovators cluster of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriScience Program.

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