Garlic may not be everyone’s favourite smell on the breath but it turns out it’s good for your baby.
A study from the University of British Columbia published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology is the first to identify two compounds derived from garlic – diallyl sulfide and ajoene – that significantly reduce the contamination risk of Cronobacter sakazakii in the production of dry infant formula powder.
C. sakazakii is a foodborne pathogen that is sometimes present in dry infant formula powder and other fortified foods. C. sakazakii infection is rare, but often fatal for infants. It can poison a baby’s bloodstream and lead to life-threatening cases of meningitis or colitis. Outbreaks of C. sakazakii have occurred worldwide.
The discovery could make the product safer to consume, easing the minds of new mothers who are not able, or choose not, to breastfeed.
“A trace dose of these two compounds is extremely effective in killing C. sakazakii in the food manufacturing process,” says lead author Assistant Professor Xiaonan Lu in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems.
“They have the potential to eliminate the pathogen before it ever reaches the consumer.”
According to A/Professor Lu, the garlic compounds could be used to prevent C. sakazakii contamination on food contact surfaces and in every step of food production – from processing, packaging and delivery.
“Pipes used in the manufacturing of milk products are typically cleaned with chemicals like chlorine, but these garlic compounds are a natural alternative,” says Lu.
“We believe these compounds are more beneficial in protecting babies against this pathogen.”
A research colleague, Professor Shuo Wang from Tianjin University in China added that this discovery could make a significant difference worldwide because of the widespread use of powdered infant formula.
“This is the first step to international collaboration to decrease the potential contamination of dry infant formula powder products transported globally,” said Professor Wang.