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WSU’s On Solid Ground—Cinnamon vs. E. coli, New wheat, Berries by the numbers

Posted by | July 18, 2014

Preventing foodborne illness, naturally

Seeking ways to prevent some of the most serious foodborne illnesses caused by pathogenic bacteria, two Washington State University scientists have found promise in an ancient, but common cooking spice: cinnamon.LinaSheng

Recent findings published in Food Control suggest Cinnamomum cassia oil can work effectively as a natural antibacterial agent in the food industry. The study results add to a body of knowledge that will help improve food safety and reduce or eliminate cases of food poisoning and related deaths.

In the study, the essential oil killed several strains of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, known to the Centers for Disease Control as “non-O157 STEC.” The study looked at the top 6 strains of non-o157 STEC, said co -author Lina Sheng, a graduate student in the School of Food Science. It’s effective in low concentrations, too, she said—about 10 drops of the cinnamon cassia oil diluted in a liter of water killed the bacteria within 24 hours.

Demand for natural food additives

Rising health concerns about chemical additives have strengthened the demand for natural food additives, said co-author Meijun Zhu, an assistant professor in the School of Food Science. “Our focus is on exploring plant-derived natural food bioactive compounds as antimicrobials to control foodborne pathogens, to ensure the safety of fresh produce,” she said.

Lina Sheng and Meijun Zhu in their WSU lab.
Lina Sheng and Meijun Zhu in their WSU lab.

Sheng said about 110,000 cases of illness are caused annually by the non-O157 STEC. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service has a “zero tolerance” policy for these CDC top six non-O157 STECs in raw ground beef and trimmings, indicating any raw non-intact beef products containing these pathogens will be considered adulterated. This has led Zhu and Sheng to include the beef industry in the large-scale application of their findings on cinnamon.

“The oil can be incorporated into films and coatings for packaging both meat and fresh produce,” Sheng said. “It can also be added into the washing step of meat, fruits or vegetables to eliminate microorganisms.”

Cassia cinnamon is produced primarily in Indonesia and has a stronger smell than the other common cinnamon variety, Ceylon.

In addition to Cinnamomum cassia oil, Sheng plans to take a look at another natural source to kill bacteria in the near future. She and her coworkers will study the potential of dandelions to inhibit bacteria related to bovine mastitis, an infection in the mammary glands of dairy cows.

The article, “Inhibitory effect of Cinnamomum cassia oil on non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli” will be published in the print version of Food Control in December 2014.

Learn more about the School of Food Science at

—Rachel Webber

WSU partners with industry to market new wheat variety

WSU has joined forces with AgriPro, a division of Syngenta Cereals, to market a new variety of hard white spring wheat known as Dayn.

WSU’s Dayn growing in Reardan, Wash.
WSU’s Dayn growing in Reardan, Wash.

AgriPro is marketing and licensing Dayn outside the state of Washington. Within Washington, registered seed dealers can license the variety directly from WSU.

“Working with AgriPro offers us a fantastic opportunity to expand our capacity for high-quality hard white wheat production in the Pacific Northwest,” said Kim Kidwell, former WSU spring wheat breeder and developer of the variety.

Dayn’s many outstanding attributes include a high resistance to stripe rust, excellent grain quality for food production and superior yields in irrigated areas like southern Idaho, according to Michael Pumphrey, WSU spring wheat breeder.

The agreement with AgriPro is part of a more aggressive approach by WSU to protect and market its wheat and barley varieties. Increasing competition coupled with the desire to breed varieties with superior end-use quality that adapt to the diverse climates of the Pacific Northwest drove the strategy.

“When opportunities exist to partner and market varieties outside of Washington, we will explore agreements like this on a case-by-case basis,” said Jim Moyer, associate dean of research for CAHNRS. “We took a Washington-first approach in which the needs of Washington wheat growers and seed dealers were met before going outside the area.”

Washington growers helped support development of Dayn through assessment dollars administered by the Washington Grain Commission. Royalties collected from sale of the variety outside the state will be reinvested in the WSU breeding program to develop new wheat varieties for Washington growers, Moyer said.

“This agreement follows Syngenta Cereals’ strategy of collaborating with valuable partners to help improve cereals and get the best genetics Pacific Northwest producers,” said Paul Morano, head of key account management for Syngenta-GreenLeaf. “We look forward to a strong partnership as we move into the next era of cereal advancements.”

For Kidwell, the goal was to develop a hard white variety that had the agronomic attributes and pest resistance to make it a low risk, high-profit option for farmers.

“We also wanted the milling and baking qualities of grain from the variety to be highly desirable to the food industry,” she said. Dayn and other hard white wheats are used to make products like breads, hard rolls and tortillas.

“Dayn is a win-win from the perspective of farmers and end users,” she said.

—Kate Wilhite

It’s berry season…Enjoy the harvest!

Fresh berries are one of the highlights of summer. These sweet treats are not only colorful, tasty and good for you but also good for Washington’s economy. The infographic below showcases some exceptional statistics gathered by WSU horticulturists John Fellman and Patrick Moore.Berries by the Numbers


For tips on growing berries for your own enjoyment or others’, including details about pest management, marketing and economics, visit the Small Farms Team berries web page. For related WSU Extension publications, check out the following options:

Berries for the Inland Northwest, MISC253E
Blueberry Cultivars for the Pacific Northwest, PNW656
Growing Day-Neutral Strawberries in Western Washington, FS132E
Growing Small Fruits for the Home Garden, EB1640
Raspberry Cultivars for the Pacific Northwest, PNW655
Strawberry Cultivars for Western Oregon and Washington, EC1618