A chemical that is a common ingredient in mouthwashes has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in the prevention of food-borne illnesses.

Cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) has been used since the 1930s in mouthwashes but “nobody thought to use it to clean meat,” according to researcher Cesar Compadre, who has spent the last few years trying to prove the effectiveness of CPC in preventing food borne illnesses, reported the Associated Press.

US company Safe Foods has developed CPC into a spray which it plans to market under the Cecure brand. The company announced this week that it has gained FDA approval for use of CPC on poultry meat to protect against salmonella, E.coli and listeria. The company will be allowed to market the product once the FDA approval is published in the Federal Register.

Compadre said the chemical does not alter the taste, smell or colour of the meat. He also said there was very little bacterial resistance to CPC.

A spokesman for US meat processor Tyson said the company will test CPC as part of its food safety initiatives, according to AP.