The FDA has approved the use of a group of viruses as a food additive for ready-to-eat meat products, such as hot dogs and cold cuts. Companies that use the additive will not be required to inform consumers.
Known as a bacteriophage, the combination of six viruses is intended to combat a bacterium that kills around 500 people a year.
Wired News (AP):
The viruses are the first to win FDA approval for use as a food additive, said Andrew Zajac, of the regulatory agency’s office of food additive safety.
The bacterium the viruses target can cause a serious infection called listeriosis, primarily in pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. In the United States, an estimated 2,500 people become seriously ill with listeriosis each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 500 die.
Luncheon meats are particularly vulnerable to Listeria because, once purchased, they typically aren’t cooked or reheated, which can kill harmful bacteria like Listeria, Zajac said.