BEIJING, Aug. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted first-ever approval to a mix of bacteria-killing viruses to be used as a food additive to combat microbes that kill hundreds of people a year, said federal health officials Friday.
Called bacteriophages, the combination of six viruses are meant to kill strains of the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium, the FDA said in declaring it safe to use on ready-to-eat meats prior to their packaging.
The special viruses are designed to be sprayed on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, including sliced ham and turkey, said John Vazzana, president and chief executive officer of manufacturer Intralytix Inc.
The bacterium the viruses target can cause a serious infection called listeriosis, with which an estimated 2,500 people become seriously ill each year in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Luncheon meats are particularly vulnerable to Listeria since once purchased they typically aren't cooked or reheated, which can kill harmful bacteria like Listeria, said Andrew Zajac, of the regulatory agency's office of food additive safety.
The viruses are grown in a preparation of the very bacteria they kill, and then purified.
The preparation of bacteriophages attacks only strains of the Listeria bacterium and not human or plant cells, the FDA said. Enditem