CHICAGO — Adding cinnamon to unpasteurized apple juice may kill E. coli 0157:H7, the bacterium that causes a food-borne illness that sickens an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Americans each year, researchers said Thursday.
Microbiologists at Kansas State University inoculated apple juice samples with about 1 million E. coli bacteria--roughly 100 times the number typically found in contaminated food--and found that one teaspoon of cinnamon killed 99.5% of the bacteria in three days at room temperature.
When the same amount of cinnamon was combined with either 0.1% sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate, which are preservatives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, E. coli was reduced to an undetectable level.
"Cinnamon contains a compound that has the ability to kill bacteria," Daniel Y.C. Fung, professor of food science at Kansas State, said in a telephone interview.
"It has natural killing power," said Fung, who oversaw the research. "We are not promoting that you should not heat your food properly, but this extra help from the kitchen can spice up your health."
The research was presented in Chicago last week at an annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists, a nonprofit group composed of scientists and food industry professionals.
Most people recover from E. coli exposure within a week, but some develop a form of kidney failure, and an estimated 50 to 100 Americans die of the illness each year.
Apple juice tainted with E. coli, which causes bloody diarrhea, was linked to a 1996 outbreak that killed a Denver toddler and sickened 66 other people.
"This research indicates that the use of cinnamon alone and in combination with preservatives in apple juice, besides its flavoring effect, might reduce and control the number of E. coli 0157:H7," lead researcher Erdogan Ceylan said in a statement.
The FDA in April estimated that there are between 16,000 and 48,000 cases of juice-related illnesses each year in the United States.