Separating the Beef from Bacteria

Last Editorial Review: 8/25/2003

Despite the FDA's federal prose (below), this is an interesting story. Lactoferrin is a natural protein found in dairy products. When lactoferrin is applied to meat, it helps protect the meat against many different types of harmful bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Lactoferrin is one of the proteins responsible for providing protection to infants before their immune systems begin to function. It is found in high concentrations in mother's milk. It is a minor protein in cow's milk (0.3% by weight) and is extracted from skim milk or whey through protein separation.

Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein. It acts as an antimicrobial agent by tying up the iron required by bacteria for growth and by its ability to detach bacteria from meat surfaces and eliminate bacterial attachment structures, making them incapable of colonizing and multiplying.

For more information, please visit the following areas:

  • E. Coli 0157:H7
  • Salmonellosis, Frequently Asked Questions
  • Listeria
  • Food Poisoning Center
  • Focus Topics on Digestive Disorders, edited by Jay Marks, M.D., director of an independent Gastrointestinal Diagnostic Unit where he performs specialized tests for the diagnosis of gastrointestinal diseases.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors,

Lactoferrin to Fight E. Coli on Raw Beef

August 22, 2003 -- FDA today announced that aLF Ventures, Salt Lake City, Utah, has consulted with the agency about aLF Ventures' plans to market lactoferrin, a component of an anti-microbial spray. This spray can be applied to uncooked beef carcasses to fight E.coli 0157:H7, an organism that can cause severe gastrointestinal disease in humans. FDA informed aLf Ventures today that it does not question their decision to market lactoferrin, an anti-microbial protein found in cow's milk and beef.

Although aLF Ventures was not required to seek approval from FDA before it marketed lactoferrin, aLF Ventures provided FDA scientific data supporting the firm's conclusion that lactoferrin is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) and safe for the general population as well as for individuals who are allergic to milk.

"Innovative technology is a critical building block in preserving the strong foundation of the U.S. food supply," said Dr. Lester Crawford, Deputy Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. "We must continue to encourage scientific research and new technology to maintain this nation's safe food supply."

A substance used in food can be GRAS if its safety has been established by generally available scientific data and information that lead qualified experts to conclude that the use of the ingredient is safe for its proposed use.

In its notice submitted to FDA, aLF Ventures noted that the amount of added lactoferrin that remains on the beef after spraying is comparable to the amount of lactoferrin that is naturally occurring in the beef.

aLF Ventures also submitted data to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the effectiveness of lactoferrin against E.coli 0157:H7. USDA is the agency responsible for addressing labeling issues with lactoferrin-treated beef.

Source: FDA Talk Paper #P03-62, August 22, 2003 (

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