USDA scientists at College Station, TX have discovered that providing sodium chlorate in the drinking water or feed of livestock will reduce the intestinal concentrations of bacteria harmful to humans.

The research is significant because it may lead to alternatives to antibiotics in animal agriculture now used to reduce or eliminate disease-causing pathogens.

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The findings by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Food and Feed Research Unit at College Station are being published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Science.

The organic compounds could be used to check pathogen growth in pork and beef.

The researchers say sodium chlorate has been used in agricultural applications for over 100 years.

“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 metabolized in food and laboratory animals to a single, non-toxic metabolite,” the researchers wrote.  “Collectively, these results suggest that chlorate salts could be developed into a useful and safe feed or water additive for use in livestock.”

In previous research, a team led by microbiologist Robin Anderson mixed a chlorate-based compound with cattle feed and water, and found the compound was highly effective against E. coli.  It was also shown to reduce Salmonella in broiler chickens and turkeys.

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.

“Specifically, when orally dosed in livestock, chlorate reduced the fecal shedding of common enteropathogens of the Enterobacteriaceae family, ” the researchers explained. “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 Texas-based scientists ” discuss the published data regarding the efficacy, metabolism and toxicology of chlorate salts in target (livestock) and non-target species.”

  • Carl

    How could this magical miracle drug have been overlooked for a century? One would think anything so completely effective at stopping all pathogens in their tracks would have been in general use the entire time.
    Thank goodness we generously fund research so Texans can invent new language to hype antiquated technology. I bet if we paid them enough, Texans could eventually re-invent the wooden wheel, possibly the kerosene lantern. There may be no end to the genius of Texans…limited only by insufficient flow of pork barrel tax dollars into their trough! Oink, oink, baby.

  • Minkpuppy

    Innovation also includes finding new uses for old things.
    Sodium chlorate was used as a herbicide and food preservative in the past, not as a feed supplement. It took a very sharp mind to make the leap to thinking that this could possibly have a benefit if it was directly fed to livestock.
    This is a very important discovery when it comes to food safety. If the animal isn’t shedding deadly E.coli or Salmonella then the chances of carcass contamination after slaughter is greatly reduced. If you combine that with proper sanitary dressing procedures and all the various post-slaughter interventions, meat recalls and illness outbreaks may become exceedingly rare.
    An effective solution for pathogen shedding that doesn’t involve antibiotics/resistance is important for animal health and food safety. Sodium chlorate has the potential to significantly reduce the spreading of pathogenic bacteria and ultimately the risk of foodborne illnesses.
    I’m all for funding research like this and I don’t care what state it’s located in.
    PS– Please don’t feed the trolls!

  • John

    When sodium chlorate is mixed with acid it forms chlorine dioxide, which is a powerful germ killing agent. Maybe the acid in the cows stomach drives this reaction

  • husna

    Sodium Chlorate can be a strong irritant and is generally used to produce chlorine dioxide in the paper industry.
    The following article is worth a read if you have access to journals online.

  • husna aijaz

    An interesting read on the effect of Sodium chlorate on E.coli in the Journal of Applied Microbiology:

  • mary ann lajoie

    PLease, if farmers would clean up their farms where animals are kept we wouldn’t need all these anti biotics. Animals standing in their own dung would be cleaner and healthier. makes sense??
    stop all these anti biotics now and keep the farms cleaner where animals sleep or stand .
    Factory farming is unsafe to begin with. No animal should be treated that way. Let them go out in the sunshine and eat grass and roam. Thats an alternative answer, right????