Canadian Researchers Found a Way to Prevent Foodborne Outbreaks Using Cooking Oil

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There is now a method the food industry can use to avoid spreading foodborne bacteria, and it’s quite cheap. Canadian researchers have recently published their study in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

The findings show that salmonella, listeria and E. coli can be prevented by using cooking oil. The engineering researchers concluded that the machines used in the food industry can have small grooves and scratches which are a place where bacteria can hide.

The University of Toronto researchers – Prof. Ben Hatton, Dr. Dalal Asker and Dr. Tarek Awad explain that if the machines are filled with a thin layer of cooking oil, the layer of oil will fill those grooves or scratches and act as a barrier against bacteria.

With this approach, companies can lower the risk of cross-contamination. According to Prof. Ben Hatton, this method can lower the bacterial levels from inside the machines by 1,000 to 100,000 times.

Left to right: Dr. Tarek Awad, Prof. Ben Hatton, Dr. Dalal Asker

Solving an Issue With a Cheap Approach – Is It Effective?

The team of researchers collaborated with a seed processing company in Ontario (Agri-Neo) to solve the bacterial contamination issue. Hatton explains that the stainless steel must be hydrophobic to allow the oil to stick to the pipe. One problem is that as the machine starts operating, the oil gets worn away:

“The focus of the paper was to see if we take this safe, really cheap, everyday oil and kind of trap it at the surface … and then look at what happens when you wear it away, is it still effective?”

The results of their experiments showed that the method is effective, filling in the scratches and the grooves in the machines.

So far, the team has tested the process in the lab, but Hatton says they are “definitely interested in trying to a scaled up test of this for real equipment.”

He concludes that this process is simple, cheap and can be scaled, explaining that “the economic cost of an outbreak that shuts down a whole line and recalls and liability.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere