News Release: Antimicrobial Treatments to Food Are Safe to Human Health

DATE: June 26, 2006



ORLANDO—Prudent use of decontaminants, sanitizers and other antimicrobial treatments in the production and manufacturing of food appears to generate no bacterial resistance of concern to human health, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. In its report issued today, Antimicrobial Resistance: Implications for the Food System , IFT recommends that current antimicrobial treatments continue unabated to ensure food safety and public health.

“The benefits of antimicrobial treatments are numerous,” says Michael P. Doyle, Ph.D., IFT food safety expert, microbiologist and chair of the expert panel that wrote the report. “From healthy animals entering the food chain to good physical condition of crops to maintaining sanitation during processing,” antimicrobial treatments are having their intended effect, he says.

Antimicrobials can come in the form of preservatives applied to keep food from deteriorating, or as fungicides applied to produce, or as sanitizers and disinfectants used on processing equipment. In the home, antimicrobials are commonly known as antibacterial products.

More than 700 soaps and other antimicrobial products are marketed commercially for the home, but use of these decontaminants does not impact bacterial resistance in the environment at the level that medicine and agriculture do, according to the report.

However, consumers’ increased preference for minimally processed foods may be affecting the survival of resistant bacteria.

“The current demand for minimally processed foods and preservative-free foods may drive increases in the occurrence of resistant pathogens,” says Doyle, the result of fewer antimicrobial applications to food that inactivate pathogens during processing.

This is the fourth Expert Report commissioned by IFT and funded by the nonprofit IFT Foundation, following the release of Functional Foods (2005), Emerging Microbiological Food Safety Issues (2002) and Biotechnology and Foods (2000). It was released at the IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo® in Orlando, the world’s single largest annual scientific meeting and technical exposition on food.