How many big food recalls can your think of from the past couple of years off the top of your head? Ground beef. Ground turkey. Spinach. Eggs. Peanut butter. Cookie dough. Black pepper. Those are the few that came to my mind, but there have been dozens more and they’re almost always because bacteria has been detected in the foods and made people ill.


There is a lot of talk about using food irradiation to kill bacteria that can contaminate food and cause illness and death. The Environmental Protection Agency says that irradiation is similar to pasteurization but while pasteurization uses heat to kill bacteria, irradiation uses radiation. 

It seems to me that the end result of pasteurization and irradiation might be similar, but the methods are not. Radiation is not natural and the long-term effects of eating a steady diet of irradiated foods are not known. I am leery of the process.

I am not leery about natural coriander oil, though. A new study found the oil from the seeds of a coriander plant is a natural method of fighting bacteria.

The researchers found that coriander oil is able to damage the membrane of bacterial cells. This blocks the cell from essential processes, like respiration, and ultimately leads to the bacterium’s demise, the researchers report.
The coriander oil was tested on E.coli, salmonella, MRSA — an antibiotic-resistant strain of staphylococcus — and eight other harmful bacteria. The results were promising. “Most of the bacteria were killed by solutions containing less than 1.6 percent coriander oil.”

Anyone who has ever tried to grow coriander for its leaves, which are commonly called cilantro, knows how quickly the plant goes to seed. The very thing that is so frustrating to backyard gardeners wanting a supply of cilantro for fresh summer salsa could be the best thing that has happened to food safety in a while.

I would think that since the plant turns to seed so quickly, coriander farms would be able to grow the plants for their seeds with little trouble. This could be an entirely new sector in farming, and if the plants are farmed using organic and natural methods, could result in many environmentally sound farms. This is just my speculation, of course, but it’s exciting to think about the promise of this finding. 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Coriander seed oil found to kill bacteria
A natural method for battling bacteria like E.coli and salmonella may be on its way.