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Compound in salsa may fight food poisoning

Researchers have identified a compound in cilantro, a key flavor component of salsa and a variety of other dishes, that kills harmful Salmonella bacteria and shows promise as a safe, natural food additive that could help prevent foodborne illness, according to a joint study by U.S. and Mexican researchers.

Although previous studies by the researchers showed that salsa has antibacterial activity, this new study represents the first time that they have isolated any of the antibacterial compounds from it. Their study appears in the May 26 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

The compound dodecenal was isolated from the fresh leaves of cilantro, or coriander, one of the main ingredients found in salsa, along with tomatoes, onions and green chilies. The compound also is found in the seeds of cilantro. Both leaves and seeds contain about the same amount of dodecenal, but the leaves are used more abundantly in salsa.

In laboratory tests, dodecenal was twice as potent as the commonly used medicinal antibiotic gentamicin at killing Salmonella, a frequent and sometimes deadly cause of foodborne illness, the researchers say. It is the only naturally occurring antibacterial that is more effective than gentamicin against Salmonella, they claim.

"We were surprised that dodecenal was such a potent antibiotic," says study leader Isao Kubo, Ph.D., a chemist with the University of California, Berkeley. Most natural antibacterial agents found in food generally have weak activity.

"The study suggests that people should eat more salsa with their food, especially fresh salsa," Kubo adds.

In addition to dodecenal, about a dozen other antibiotic compounds were isolated from fresh cilantro that show some activity against a variety of harmful bacteria. Salsa likely contains even more ant
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Contact: Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
202-872-6042
American Chemical Society
24-May-2004


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