Every year, an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness and 5,000 associated deaths occur in the United States.

Traditionally, chemical additives have been used to preserve food, but more and more consumers are seeking natural alternatives. New research finds cranberries may offer a unique line of defense against food poisoning with their unique ability to reduce the growth of Salmonella and E. coli and other types of bacteria found in food. These findings suggest that cranberries may be a natural and delicious way to make that summer barbeque a safer one.

This latest study supports an earlier review published in the journal Biofactors that reported compounds in cranberries inhibit the growth of bacteria associated with food-borne illnesses. Cranberries are widely known for their unique "anti-adhesion" activity that protects the body from certain harmful bacteria that cause urinary tract infections, stomach ulcers and gum disease. This anti-adhesion activity is primarily due to a natural compound in the fruit called proanthocyanidins.

Since cranberry PACs also function as antioxidants, they provide a dual anti-adhesion and antioxidant health benefit. With more PACs and antioxidants per gram than most fruit, cranberries ward off certain bacteria and bolster the body’s defenses against free radical damage that can contribute to many chronic diseases including heart disease.

Furthermore, research published in the Journal of Food Protection previously 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. Incorporating cranberry into food preparation, one day, may be a natural way to minimize food contamination.