In your kitchen
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Plum good news
Behold, the power of dried plums?
By Keener A. Tippin II
Long the butt of many medical jokes, dried plums, according to a K-State food microbiologist, can also serve an additional purpose -- they possess antimicrobial properties that can help make meat products safer.
Daniel Y.C. Fung, a K-State professor of animal sciences and industry, and his graduate research assistant, Leslie Thompson, have tested the effect that varying levels of dried plum mixtures had on ground meat that was contaminated with common food-borne pathogens. Their research, sponsored by the California Dried Plum Board, indicates that raw meats mixed with as little as 3 percent plum extract are over 90 percent effective in suppressing the growth of major food-borne pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria, Y. enterocolitica and Staphylococcus.
Similar research conducted by scientists at Texas A&M University has found that adding dried plum mixtures to raw meat improved the quality of reheated products by enhancing the moisture of the meat. Fung said adding dried plum mixtures to meat works as an antioxidant to prevent lipid oxidation, which is similar to freezer burn in meat, as well as being an antimicrobial agent to kill pathogens.
Fung said he is excited about the use of plum extracts. In addition to suppressing pathogens, he said the extract also has "good functionality" as it can enhance the moistness of meat and increase the yields. He said adding a prune mixture would be most applicable to school lunch programs, where meat products are prepared at central locations and rewarmed at satellite kitchens.
Fung hopes to expand the research to poultry products such as chicken and turkey. Future research will involve experiments to determine if plum extracts can extend the shelf life of meats as well.
"The potential is unlimited," Fung said. "This is a win-win situation for everybody involved in food science and safety."