An extract from soybeans kills harmful bacteria, such as listeria and pseudomonas that cause food poisoning, says a University of Guelph researcher.
Suresh Neethirajan says it works better than the “synthetic-based, chemical-based anti-microbial agents (which) kill bacteria indiscriminately, whether they are pathogenic or beneficial."
The compounds in soybeans kill only the bad bacteria, Neethirajan said in a report by CBC radio.
Soybean derivatives are already used in a variety of products including canned foods, cooking oils, meat alternatives, cheeses, ice cream and baked goods.
Neethirajan, an engineering professor and director of the BioNano Laboratory at the university, said those with soy allergies need not worry about soy being used to prevent bacteria growth.
He said their method isolates the active component of the soybean from the protein that causes allergic reactions. The soy isoflavones that are chemically similar to estrogen are also weeded out.
What is left is a compound that naturally stops the bad bacteria.
"You do need good bacteria, beneficial bacteria, in our intestines to be able to properly process the food we eat, so that's why a lot of antibiotic food preservatives, which are made of synthetic chemicals, have ... side effects such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, gas," he said.
"Because of the selective specificity [by soy] towards inhibiting the pathogenic bacteria compared to beneficial bacteria, it will eliminate some of the health issues associated with the current synthetic-based food preservatives."
Neethirajan is now working to identify which varieties of soybeans are best at preventing bacteria from growing.