Food Bacteria Mutations Can Be Controlled

CHICAGO - The appropriate use of sanitizers and antimicrobial food preservatives is a simple method to control foodborne pathogens without concern for creating "super" bugs - microorganisms resistant to antimicrobial treatment. This according to the not-for-profit, international scientific society Institute of Food Technologists and its forthcoming Scientific Status Summary, Resistance and Adaptation to Food Antimicrobials, Sanitizers, and Other Process Controls.

According to the report published in the November issue of IFT's Food Technology magazine, there is no evidence that proper use of antimicrobial agents in food manufacturing settings will lead to the development of resistant microorganisms.

Acknowledging that data addressing the creation of antimicrobial resistant pathogens are scarce, the report calls for increasing studies of the conditions that exist within and on food production and processing lines.

"In the laboratory, it's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that organisms can develop tolerances when improperly exposed to sanitizers or antimicrobials," said P. Michael Davidson, IFT member, professor at the University of Tennessee, and co-author of the summary. "More study is needed in realistic settings, such as model food processing lines."

There is the potential for emergence of resistant microorganisms with an ever-increasing reliance on and use of sanitizers on food handling equipment and raw food products, the report states. However, it does not predict any public health problems resulting from microorganisms that develop resistance to current antimicrobial applications in food manufacturing.

"There's no indication of an increase in the incidence of resistant organisms on food products," after applying preservatives, sanitizers or antimicrobial agents, Davidson says.

Simple methods for overcoming the potential for development of antimicrobial resistance by pathogens in food manufacturing settings include the appropriate use of antimicrobial agents, avoidance of sub-lethal concentrations of antimicrobial agents, and the appropriate use of combinations of antimicrobials, the report concludes.

Food Technology articles can be accessed online via IFT Scientific Status Summaries are accessible at


Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food Technologists is a not-for-profit scientific society with 27,000 members working in food science, technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues. For more on IFT, see

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