Adding cranberry concentrate to raw minced beef significantly reduces the growth of common food-borne pathogens, according to new research.

The research may be a significant development for the meat industry, which is constantly searching for natural preservatives to replace chemical additives.

Cranberries offer a defence against food poisoning due to the fruit’s unique ability to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, says University of Maine researcher Vivian Chi Hua Wu, who carried out the study. "The drive to discover and develop safe, effective and natural antimicrobial agents is ever increasing," she said in presenting her research in the Journal of Food Protection. "With numerous health benefits, cranberry’s antimicrobial effect offers considerable promise as a natural and effective tool to control food-borne pathogens and reduce the incidence of food-borne illness."

She and other researchers added cranberry concentrate to samples of raw ground beef tainted with several types of bacteria that frequently cause food related illness. The results showed that compared to the control, cranberry concentrate significantly inhibited food-borne pathogens in ground beef.

Research previously published in the Journal of Food Protection found that cranberry juice reduced E. coli, Salmonella and other bacteria in unpasteurized apple cider. Apple cider is particularly susceptible to E. coli and Salmonella contamination and cranberries provide a more natural way to reduce bacteria during the production process, the researchers found.