People worry about raw eggs in cookie batter, yet flour is classified as a raw agricultural product. At least six people came into contact with Salmonella from raw dough or batter after a General Mills nationwide flour recall in April of 2023. To make matters worse, flour can contaminate nearby surfaces since its powdered form spreads easily.

The growing need to prevent E. coli (STEC) and Salmonella outbreaks in flour and grain has prompted research into more effective, targeted pathogen mitigation strategies. Bacteriophages, or phages, have emerged as a solution.

Phages kill bacteria in any type of flour or grain-based application, including soft and hard wheat. Not all flour and grain-based products have this safety measure, so bakeries should inquire with their ingredient suppliers about safety precautions taken at mills. The FDA approved phages for use in food safety, which is just one of the reasons why phages are gaining momentum: 

Keeps Application Integrity

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Chemical options for pathogen mitigation like organic acids and chlorine dioxide alter pH, which interferes with the final application’s organoleptic characteristics. With phages, mills can supply a product with enhanced safety at the same performance level, so bakers can keep processes the same. Because phages are highly specialized, they only target one bacteria type, like E. coli or Salmonella. Beneficial bacteria are unaffected, so bakeries don’t see a change in products. 

Long History of Use 

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Phages aren’t new or made by humans. They’re all around us, just like bacteria. Phages were discovered in the 1920s but were soon overshadowed by antibiotics. The status quo has shifted in the rise of antibiotic resistance. Bacteriophages are already used for poultry, meat, fish, and produce, showing a history of safe usage. 


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In 2006, biotechnology company Intralytix became the first to receive FDA approval for using phages for food safety. Intralytix and fermentation expert Lesaffre joined forces to create Nature’s Grain Guard™, a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) solution to help control foodborne illness. Labeling on consumer goods isn't required since phages are characterized as a food processing aid.

Immediately Effective 

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A third-party test saw results as soon as 15 minutes after exposure to bacteriophages. Effects persist since phages continue to multiply through the process of killing bacteria. While chemical and heat treatments only inhibit bacterial growth, phages fully kill bacteria.

Phages present exciting possibilities for efficiently reducing outbreaks and product recalls. Email to find flour and grain-based products treated with phages for added safety without needing to change recipes.