Cranberries Help Create Safer Summer Barbeques

Armen Hareyan's picture

With summertime cookouts in full swing, soaring temperatures and inadequate food preparation and storage can turn your basic BBQ into a food safety fiasco.

Now there's a new weapon in the fight against food borne illness -- the cranberry. New research suggests cranberries not only protect your body from bacteria but your burgers too!

In what is thought to be an unusual combination, cranberries and hamburgers have come together to create a perfect defense against food borne illness. Every year, an estimated 76 million cases of food borne illness and 5,000 associated deaths occur in the United States. Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees F and can double every 15 minutes at room temperature and become 4 million bacteria in only 8 hours. While chemical additives have traditionally been used to preserve food, more and more consumers are seeking natural alternatives, such as cranberries.

New research out of the University of Maine finds cranberries may offer a unique line of defense against bacteria in beef patties, reducing the growth of Salmonella, E. coli and other types of food related bacteria.

"While last year our research proved that cranberry's antimicrobial effect offers a unique line of defense against food poisoning, this year we also focused on taste and found that it wasn't sacrificed. This is great news for consumers who are seeking natural alternatives to chemical additives in food. We have learned cranberries are a nutritional powerhouse offering many health benefits, that are a great tool for food safety," said Dr. Vivian Chi Hua Wu.

Building on previous research, Dr. Wu - lead researcher at the University of Maine has proved that cranberries not only protect against harmful bacteria in hamburgers, but also that people don't notice a change in taste when cranberry was added to the meat. In a study presented last year at the IFT, researchers added cranberry concentrate to samples of raw ground beef tainted with several types of bacteria that frequently cause food related illness. After observing the ground beef over several days, scientists discovered that the cranberry concentrate significantly reduced the growth of Salmonella, E. coli and other dangerous bacteria in the beef. In a new study, Dr. Wu and her colleagues reproduced these results with a strain of pathogenic E. coli and, further, tested the effect of different amounts of cranberry on the taste of burgers. Dr. Wu will be presenting her findings at the Institute of Food Technologist (IFT) Annual Meeting on July 31(2007).


Cranberries are widely known for their unique "anti-adhesion" activity that protects the body from certain harmful bacteria that cause urinary tract infections (UTIs), stomach ulcers and gum disease. This anti-adhesion activity is primarily due to a natural compound in the fruit called proanthocyanidins (PACs). Cranberry's PACs contain a unique A-type structure, while most other foods contain only the more-common B-type PACs. It is cranberry's A-type PACs that are responsible for this anti-adhesion mechanism of action.

Since cranberry PACs also function as antioxidants, they provide a dual anti-adhesion and antioxidant health benefit. With more PACs and antioxidants per gram than most fruit, cranberries ward off certain bacteria and bolster the body's defenses against free radical damage that can contribute to many chronic diseases including heart disease.

Enjoy the great tasting, health goodness of the cranberry when preparing for your summer gatherings. There are a variety of ways to add cranberry's sweet, tangy taste to meats, seafood and poultry while protecting your family and friends.

The FDA's Safe Grilling Tips

-- Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Don't reuse marinade.

-- Don't use the same platter and utensils that previously held raw meat or seafood to serve cooked meats and seafood.

-- If you partially cook food in the microwave, oven, or stove to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.

-- Grilled food can be kept hot until served by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals where it can overcook.