Friendly bacteria could soon be introduced to bagged salad mixes to try to prevent salmonella or listeria outbreaks.
University of Queensland researchers have begun a two-year, $800,000 study in conjunction with Horticulture Innovation Australia, into adding the bacteria ProbiSafe.
It comes after 300 people in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia fell ill in February last year after an outbreak of salmonella in bagged salads and sprouts.
Associate Professor Mark Turner said they would do taste-testing and investigate the cost of adding ProbiSafe, to make it safer and healthier to eat.
They want to commercialise the “friendly” lactic acid bacteria, which inhibits the growth of salmonella and listeria and is naturally occurring in fruit and vegetables.
The lettuce would be washed in a solution containing the bacteria and would stick to it in the packaging during its shelf-life.
“We consume them every day without any negative effects,” Dr Turner said.
“We want to increase the level of this bacteria by about 1,000 fold or 10,000 fold.”
The researchers would also consider whether they could add other probiotics, already commercially available.
“Instead of putting them in yoghurt or a capsule, we can put it in a bagged salad, and you can have your dose of probiotics that way,” Dr Turner said.