Researchers with the Agricultural Research Service have developed a compound that could help reduce the risk of salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 infection from meat and poultry products.

Researchers led by microbiologist Robin Anderson at the ARS Food and Feed Safety Research Unit in College Station, Texas, mixed a chlorate-based compound into livestock feed or water two days before slaughter. When fed at roughly 0.5 to 5 percent of an animal’s diet, this powder-like additive was very effective in reducing salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 in the animal's gastrointestinal tract.

In studies with cattle, levels fell from 100,000 E. coli cells per gram of fecal material to 100 cells per gram. Anderson's team obtained similar results in reducing the amount of E. coli and Salmonella bacteria in tests with 100 swine and 100 sheep.

To test the chlorate compound in poultry, researchers gave it to more than 200 market-age turkeys and 2,000 broiler chickens 48 hours before they went to processing. The incidence of salmonella dropped from 35 percent to zero in turkeys, and from 37 percent to 2 percent in broilers.

The experimental chlorate was developed five years ago, at the urging of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which supports research on novel ways to reduce E. coli and other problematic microbes in beef. The swine research was financially supported with funding from the National Pork Board.

ARS has patented the technology, and the researchers are working to further develop it to make it ready for approval by regulatory agencies.

To learn more about this project, please see the October 2006 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at:

Agricultural Research Service