The FDA has approved a mix of six bacteria-killing viruses designed to be sprayed on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products. The viruses, called bacteriophages, kill the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium. This is the first-ever approval of viruses as a food additive.
Listeria monocytogenes can cause a serious infection called listeriosis. About 2,500 people in the United States become seriously ill with listeriosis each year, and 500 die.
Lunch meats are particularly vulnerable to Listeria because they are generally not cooked or reheated after purchase.
Consumers will not be informed as to whether their meat and poultry products have been treated with the spray. Intralytix, the company that produces the virus spray, also plans to seek FDA approval for another bacteriophage product, this one designed to kill E. coli bacteria.