Using mango seeds to kill bacteria

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Image by © PoodlesRock/Corbis

Image by © PoodlesRock/Corbis

By processing mango pits instead of throwing them away, one University of Alberta researcher discovered a novel way to preserve food—and potentially combat dangerous bacterial infections such as Listeriosis. An outbreak of the illness last year in Canada left at least 21 people dead, making the findings published recently in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry particularly timely, and promising.

The tannins that researcher Christina Engels managed to extract from normally throwaway mango pits proved to not only act as a food preservative, but to effectively kill off Listeria microbes responsible for potentially deadly Listeriosis, a condition that initially causes flu-like symptoms and, like many illnesses, most strongly impacts the elderly, pregnant women and infants. Listeria can be spread in food products such as prepackaged salads and cold cuts—the outbreak last year in Canada was traced back to meat products produced at one plant—so being able to introduce a new, inexpensive and effective antibacterial could have far-reaching impact in the food industry. Yet, mango pit protection isn’t ready to roll out just yet. Further studies are currently underway to confirm these initial results, and to test their application on a broad range of foods.