Magazine article USA TODAY

Inactivating E. Coli with Oregano

Magazine article USA TODAY

Inactivating E. Coli with Oregano

Article excerpt

Adding oregano to meat before grilling could reduce the formation of potentially cancer-causing compounds by up to 78%, researchers at the University of Arizona, Tucson, have found. The spice also helps inactivate harmful E. coli 0157.H7 in the meat. Research conducted by microbiologist Sadhana Ravishankar has shown that a compound in oregano reduces the formation of heterocyclic amines, the potentially cancer-causing culprits that can gather in grilled meat.

Heterocyclic amines form in grilled, charbroiled, or fried meat in two essential steps. First, a raw juicy hamburger is slapped on the grill. As the meat heats up, amino acids and glucose react with each other to create molecules known as intermediates. Next, these intermediates react with creatinine, a molecule that is present in muscle. The result is heterocyclic amines.

Once the "crispy" hamburger is eaten, the heterocyclic amines potentially could lead to cell malfunction. Several epidemiological studies have shown a possible correlation between the consumption of well-done meats and different types of cancers in humans.

So, maybe people can live without that extra crispy texture on their meat. However, that strategy has a pitfall, too. There are established standards for cooking ground beef in order to eliminate harmful E. coli bacteria in the vast majority of commercial meat. Restaurants often recommend well-done meat to minimize the potential for foodborne illness.

"The ground beef patty has to be heated to a temperature of 71 [degrees]C to kill E. …

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