Canadian, eh: Bottle feeding E. coli to calves to prevent food poisoning?

Scientists in Nova Scotia are trying to come up with a way to prevent cattle from hosting the toxic strain of E. coli that can make humans sick if they eat meat contaminated with the bacteria. 

martin-kalmokoffFood safety research scientist Martin Kalmokoff, who works at the Atlantic Food and Agriculture Research Centre in Kentville, said the research is trying to figure out why certain types of E. coli multiply in the guts of cows. 

The idea is eventually farmers will be able to feed to young calves a harmless type of E. coli in liquid form, either through a bottle or syringe, that will prevent the more toxic strains from flourishing. 

The hope is the mixture would out-compete the toxic E. coli O157 for space in the gut. 

“If you can prevent the cattle from carrying the organism, it would have obvious impacts in terms of food safety down the production line,” said Kalmokoff, who works for Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada. 

“Essentially you’d like to eliminate the pathogen from cattle completely, so when they go to slaughter you don’t have the opportunity of contaminating meat and meat products with this particular product.”