Food In Canada

New research can change the way food packaging works

By Food in Canada staff   

Food Safety Research & Development

Canadian scientists say their research on using phage can create a packaging method that controls the growth of food pathogens

Hamilton, Ont. – Canadian researchers have a new packaging approach that can improve food safety and offer a unique solution for controlling food pathogens.

The scientists, from the Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network, are using harmless viruses called phage to kill targeted pathogens such as Listeria and E.coli that could be present on the surface of foods.

A phage, is a harmless virus that can kill bacteria.

Safe to use


The scientists say phage use has received regulatory Food and Drug Administration approval in the U.S. as a safe food additive in certain food products.

In Canada, Health Canada has issued a letter stating no objection for the use of phage.

How phage works

An immobilized phage can take over the Listeria and/or E.coli O157:H7 bacterial cell and produce new copies of itself inside the cell.

After the phage reaches critical levels, it breaks open the bacterial cell and destroys it, thus not allowing the pathogen to multiply on a food surface.

The Sentinel researchers say their method is to apply phage onto cellulose packaging paper material. They then used the packaging material to wrap meats contaminated with Listeria and E.coli.

They say when the foods are wrapped in the package the harmful cells of Listeria and E.coli are killed by phage that have been placed on the packaging.

This packaging option works at refrigeration temperatures, at which pathogens can still grow.

The packaging solution can be used for modified atmosphere and vacuum packaged meats.

The scientists say this is just one of several technologies they’re investigating to help make foodborne illness a thing of the past.

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