Scientists at College Station, TX, United States, have discovered that adding sodium chlorate to the drinking water or feed of pigs and cattle will reduce the intestinal concentrations of bacteria harmful to humans.
The research, carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Food and Feed Research Unit, is significant as it may lead to alternatives to antibiotics in animal agriculture.
Over 100 years
The researchers stated that sodium chlorate has been used in agricultural applications for over 100 years.
They said that the purpose of their publication is "to summarise studies that have investigated the actions of sodium chlorate in food animals, the toxic effects of chlorate in food and laboratory animals, and the metabolism and disposition of chlorate in investigational animals. To date, the body of literature suggests that chlorate salts are active against human pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7; that chlorate salts are very well tolerated by most species of animals; and that chlorate is metabolised in food and laboratory animals to a single, non-toxic metabolite. Collectively, these results suggest that chlorate salts could be developed into a useful and safe feed or water additive for use in livestock.”
Previously used as a herbicide and food preservative, the agricultural industry has looked for other uses for sodium chlorate for the past century. In 2000, USDA researchers proposed using it against enterobacteria in food animal production.
The researchers continued: "Specifically, when orally dosed in livestock, chlorate reduced the faecal shedding of common enteropathogens of the Enterobacteriaceae family. This was a revolutionary discovery, especially in an age and society where much emphasis is placed on food safety, bacterial antibiotic resistance, and curtailing use of feed-grade antibiotics.”
"Recently, much progress has been made in testing the antimicrobial efficacy of sodium chlorate in various food animal species. Subsequent results have prompted the food animal and feeding industries to consider large scale and strategic use sodium chlorate in pre-slaughter management of food animals. However, application of any new chemical entity to food animal production carries with it a responsibility to understand adverse reactions that intended and non-intended exposures may have in target and (or) non-target animals and an understanding of the pathways of elimination that occur after exposure."
In their article, the scientists "discuss the published data regarding the efficacy, metabolism and toxicology of chlorate salts in target (livestock) and non-target species."
The findings are being published in the Journal of Animal Science.
• Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
• United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)