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Released: August 28, 2001

K-State Study
Adding Prune Extract to Meat Kills Bacteria, Improves Taste

MANHATTAN, Kan. Ė Adding prunes to ground meat may sound unusual, but new research from Kansas State University has found that doing so increases the meatís safety Ė and makes it more tasty, too.

K-State researchers tested the effect that varying levels of dried plum mixtures had on ground meat that was inoculated with such common food borne pathogens as E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria, Y. enterocolitica and Staphylococcus.

"The benefits of adding dried plum mixtures to meat is that it works as an antioxidant to prevent lipid oxidation (similar to freezer burn) in meat, as well as being an antimicrobial (able to kill the pathogens)," said Leslie Thompson, a K-State graduate student who conducted the study. "It has also been shown to keep hamburgers moist."

The research originated from similar testing done at Texas A&M University, which found that adding dried plum mixtures in meat improved the quality of reheated products. Thompsonís research suggests that consumers can add 3-6 percent prune mixture to ground meat to take advantage of its antimicrobial benefits.

"That [level of] concentration was most functional for decreasing food borne pathogens and preventing freezer burn without imparting a taste to the product," she said.

Thompson 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. Due to the color change produced in raw meat when the tested prune mixtures are added, Thompson sees the primary function of this research in pre-cooked products. She said future research is likely to test how dried plums work as antimicrobials and what component suppresses the pathogens.

The research has recently drawn the interest of the scientific community. Thompson has presented her findings at the International Food Technologists convention in June and the International Association for Food Protection in early August.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by:
Linda Sleichter, Communications Assistant
K-State Research& Extension News

Additional Information:
Leslie Thompson is at 785-532-1298