Cinnamon helps fight bacteria
July 18, 2014

Cinnamon Found Effective In Killing Common Types Of Foodborne Pathogens

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Bacteria are frequently the cause of severe foodborne illnesses, but new research appearing in a recent edition of the journal Food Control reveals that a common cooking spice could effectively help combat pathogens such as E. coli.

In the study, scientists from Washington State University report that Cinnamomum cassia oil killed multiple strains of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (also known to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as non-O157 STEC). They believe their findings could improve food safety and reduce instances of food poisoning.

According to Lina Sheng, a graduate student in the WSU School of Food Science, the oil was found to be effective even in low concentrations. In fact, using a mixture of just 10 drops diluted in a liter of water, she and co-author Meijun Zhu, an assistant professor in the School of Food Science, were able to kill the bacteria in under 24 hours.

In a statement, Zhu explained that the increase of health-related concerns over chemical food additives has resulted in rising demand for natural additives, and that the focus of the study was “exploring plant-derived natural food bioactive compounds as antimicrobials to control foodborne pathogens, in order to ensure safety of fresh produce.”

Sheng noted that non-O157 STEC is responsible for more than 100,000 cases of illness each year, and that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service has a “zero tolerance” policy for ground beef containing any of the six most common strands of the bacteria tested by the WSU researchers.

Cassia cinnamon, which is primarily produced in Indonesia, was selected for a stronger smell than the other common version of the spice, Ceylon cinnamon. Sheng explained that the oil “can be incorporated into films and coatings for packaging both meat and fresh produce” and could also be used when washing meat, fruits and vegetables.

The study authors are also investigating other natural methods of killing foodborne pathogens. Sheng and Zhu said that they will analyze the bacteria-inhibiting potential of dandelions when it comes to the condition known as bovine mastitis, which is a type of infection found in the mammary glands of dairy cows.

Earlier this month, researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago reported that cinnamon could also help reverse brain damage caused by Parkinson’s disease in mice, and that the common spice was capable of treating biomechanical, cellular and anatomical changes in the brain.

“Cinnamon has been used widely as a spice throughout the world for centuries,” explained lead researcher and Rush University neurology professor Dr. Kalipada Pahan, noting that if the treatment method proves effective in humans, it “could potentially be one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients.”

“Cinnamon is metabolized in the liver to sodium benzoate” a common food preservative that is also “an FDA-approved drug used in the treatment for hepatic metabolic defects associated with hyperammonemia,” he added. While both common types of cinnamon are “metabolized into sodium benzoate,” Dr. Pahan said that the researchers found that Ceylon cinnamon was more effective because it does not contain the hepatotoxic molecule coumarin.

Image 2 (below): Cinnamomum cassia oil has been shown to kill certain strains of E. coli bacteria. Credit: Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services