Oregano could be added to ready-to-eat meats to reduce the risk of listeria bacteria, according to the American Meat Institute Foundation.

Researchers in the US have been investigating ways to help US meat plants prevent against listeria contamination. The American Meat Institute Foundation, a group funded by US meat companies, held a news conference on Friday to introduce techniques now being tested.

One approach to the problem involves adding small amounts of oregano to meat to slow the growth of the bacteria.

“These are initial results, which are very promising,” Kalidas Shetty, a University of Massachusetts researcher was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Shetty estimated that the treatment, which is still a year away from commercial use, would cost meat companies less than five cents per pound to use.

He admitted, however, that there were concerns over how to dilute the flavour of the herb so as not to overpower the taste of the meat.

“We can’t totally eliminate the flavour because some intensity of flavour is linked to the compounds that are inhibitory” to listeria growth, Shetty said.

Another approach which is also being tested involves dipping hot dogs into a calcium sulfate solution, then packaging and refrigerating them for three months to simulate conditions in grocery stores. Preliminary tests showed that treating listeria-contaminated hot dogs with the solution “reduced the listeria down to levels that we could not detect,” Jimmy Keeton, a researcher with Texas A&M University, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Keeton added that the treatment would cost just a few cents per pound and would not have any major effect on the flavour or chemical composition of the hot dogs.