Spray for raw chicken: a boon for food safety?

Mar 5, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week approved use of a spray containing the active ingredient in mouth rinses and throat lozenges as a way of reducing poultry-related foodborne illnesses. The chemical, cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), will soon be marketed as a spray under the name Cecure for poultry processing companies to apply to raw poultry.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), testing more than 1,000 chemicals over 10 years, have found CPC to be effective against Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Listeria, according to an Associated Press story and a press release from Safe Foods, Corp., the Arkansas-based company that makes Cecure. The chemical, used since the 1930s in mouthwashes, may be effective against other organisms as well (see link below).

CPC has no taste or smell, does not change the color of meat, and leaves a residue on foods only if they contain a lot of surface fat, according to Cesar Compadre, one of the UAMS researchers.

Safe Foods, which holds worldwide patent rights for food-related applications of CPC and which conducted the research necessary for the FDA approval, hopes to gain regulatory approval for use of Cecure in other countries and for use in other areas of the food processing industry, according to the company release. Researchers there are studying the product's application to beef, pork, seafood, and fruits and vegetables as well.

Current marketing of the product for US use on raw chicken will commence after the FDA publishes the new regulation in the Federal Register and receives comments over the standard 30-day period.

When asked about the new product, food safety expert Craig W. Hedberg, PhD, told CIDRAP News, "I think this generally falls into the category of good additional measures that can help reduce the food safety issues, but is not the silver bullet. They describe a spray application. This means they are treating contamination on the surface. One of the issues we get into is that not all of the contamination is on the surface. This is true for chicken and vegetables. Thus, it is unlikely to be a revolutionary breakthrough in terms of control. The question ultimately comes down to looking at the cost of the treatment, and evaluating the efficacy." Dr. Hedberg is associate professor in the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota.

Foodborne pathogens account for 76 million infections, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,200 deaths per year in the United States, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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