GRAS status: FDA and USDA approve PhageGuard-E as processing aid against E. Coli


19 Sep 2018 --- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have approved Phageguard-E as a “GRAS” (Generally Recognized as Safe) food processing aid against E.coli O157. The new product consists of natural phages against E.coli and is produced by Netherlands-based phage technology development company Micreos, who have confirmed that industrial-scale projects with US meat processing companies are set to start shortly.

Micreos will continue to expand its product portfolio and will target pathogen reduction technology. Now that PhageGuard-E has gained approval as a new surface intervention to combat E. coli O157 on food products, it will now be available for the US beef industry. 

Bert de Vegt, Managing Director at Micreos Food Safety, says: “Raw or undercooked ground meat products remain the primary source of STEC concern and outbreaks. We're pleased to be adding this tool to support the US meat processors in their constant quest to deliver safe food, and we look forward to working with the industry to implement the technology. Food safety is a non-competitive priority for all.”

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, de Vegt says: “Phage technology offers the food industry an additional tool to enhance food safety. It is popular because it is natural, effective and easy to apply, with clean label. Phageguard-E is effective against E.coli on beef and vegetables. Applications include spraying and dipping.”

“We will continue to expand the product line and applications, in close collaboration with some of the industry leaders,” he adds. 

Micreos is a pioneer in the food safety area, says de Vegt. “We launched some of the first FDA and USDA approved anti-Listeria phage products, PhageGuard Listex and Phageguard S, against Salmonella. Food processors all over the world have since come to appreciate the benefits of phage technology as an additional tool to enhance food safety. The use of phages as a surface intervention to combat food pathogens has now become broadly accepted,” he explains. 

Phages are the natural enemy of bacteria. Unlike harsh chemical interventions, phages are harmless to plant workers and do not damage equipment, concrete floors and water-treatment installations. This makes PhageGuard a smart, green and easy to apply solution. As a natural product, it meets increasing consumers' demand for minimal use of chemicals. Unlike traditional chemical treatments, PhageGuard-E kills E. coli without affecting the organoleptic properties of treated food products, such as taste, odor or texture. 

The findings are of particular interest to beef processors looking for natural and effective post-harvest interventions, reducing E. coli O157 on beef carcasses, primals, subs and trimmings. Recent research conducted at the University of Nevada demonstrated superior results of PhageGuard-E surface spray on E. coli O157 contaminated fresh cold beef over currently used chemicals.

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in food products forms a serious public health concern, with close to 5,000 cases recorded last year in the US alone. They can produce toxins which can cause kidney failure and anemia due to the destruction of the red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. This is called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and is especially dangerous for small children and the elderly.

By Elizabeth Green

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