Scientists at the University of Minnesota have discovered a natural preservative that appears to prevent foods from going bad. Sell-by dates for some foods may soon be listed in the distant future, or they may go away altogether.
The lantibioic substance, called bisin, destroys foodborne bacteria (such as salmonella) that make meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products decompose. Bisin could be added to these foods to extend shelf life for several years—and may also work for opened bottles of wine and salad dressings.
In addition to food safety benefits, lantibiotics are easy to digest, nontoxic, do not induce allergies, and are difficult for dangerous bacteria to develop resistance against.
The discovery may revolutionize the way we shop and help reduce the millions of tons of food that go to waste every year.
According to the research team, foods using this natural preservative could last for years and could forego the need for refrigeration. However, bisin will not keep fruits and vegetables from rotting, as these decompose in a different way.
The scientists, who have patented the substance, are already in discussions with food manufacturers. The first products containing bisin are expected to be on the market within three years.
Dr. Dan O’Sullivan, an Irish microbiologist who works at the university, made the discovery by accident while examining a culture of bacteria found in the human intestine.
“It seems to be much better than anything which has gone before,” O’Sullivan says. “It doesn’t compromise nutrient quality – we are not adding a chemical, we are adding a natural ingredient.”
Bisin is chemically related to nisin which is already used to keep processed cheese sterile and edible for many years, so it does not require pharmaceutical testing.
Think of that. In the very near future you could be walking out of the store with a sandwich that would be good enough to eat for many years—even decades.
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