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Antibiotic residues in fermented sausage meat target beneficial bacteria, leave pathogens alone

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It’s a paradoxical lose-lose for food safety: antibiotic residues in uncured pepperoni or salami meat are potent enough to weaken lactic acid bacteria that processors add to acidify the sausage and make it safe for consumption, but not potent enough to kill off foodborne pathogens like Salmonella or E. coli. The latest from mBio raises some important questions about the safety of my favorite pizza topping, but it also highlights the fact that antibiotic use in livestock can impact food safety in unexpected ways.
Antibiotics used as growth promoters or to treat disease in livestock can eventually end up in meat, and regulators in the US and EU have set limits on the concentrations of antibiotics in meat for consumption by humans. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark, and University College Cork, in Ireland, set out to determine whether these antibiotics might interfere with the process of fermentation in products like pepperoni, salami, or chorizo - sausages that are fermented using lactic acid producing bacteria in a curing process many cultures have employed for hundreds of years. Today, sausage manufacturers inoculate sausage meat with lactic acid producing bacteria in an effort to control the fermentation process and ensure the final product is acidic enough to kill pathogens that might have existed in the raw meat.
 
 

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