A touch of garlic helps kill contaminants in baby formula, study finds

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 27th November 2013

Garlic may be bad for the breath, but it’s good for babies and baby formula, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia.

The study, published recently in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, is the first to identify to compounds derived from garlic — diallyl sulfide and ajoene — that significantly reduce the contamination risk of Cronobacter sakazakii in the production of dry infant formula.

Researchers said the discovery could make the product safer to consumer, easing the minds of new mothers who cannot or opt not to breastfeed.

“A trace dose of these two compounds is extremely effective in killing Cronobacter sakazakii in the food manufacturing process,” said Xianonan Lu, corresponding author on the study and Assistant Professor of Food Safety Engineering in the Faculty of Land and Food System. “They have the potential to eliminate the pathogen before it ever reaches the consumer,” he said.

Cronobacter sakazakii is a foodborne pathogen that is sometimes present in dry infant forumal and other fortified foods. Infection from the pathogen is rare, but often fatal for infants. It can poison a baby’s bloodstream and lead to life-threatening cases of meningitis. Outbreaks of Cronobacter sakazakii have occurred worldwide.

The researchers said the garlic compounds could be used to prevent Cronobacter sakazakii contaminations on food contact surfaces and in every step of food production — from processing, packaging and deliver.

“Pipes in the manufacturing of milk products are typically cleaned with chemicals like chlorine, but these garlic compounds are a natural alternative,” Mr Lu said. “We believe these compounds are more beneficial in protecting babies against this pathogen,” he said.

“This is the first step to international collaboration to decrease the potential contamination of dry infant formula powder products transported globally,” said Shuo Wang, co-corresponding author and President of Tianjin University of Science and Technology and Director of National Key Laboratory of Food Nutrition and Safety in China.


Researchers used high-throughput RNA sequencing and confocal-microscopic lasers to systematically determine the antimicrobial mechanism of garlic compounds on the pathogen.

Garlic may help kill contaminants in infant formula