Dr Craig Billington is a senior scientist with ESR’s Food, Water and Environmental Microbiology Group and joined us in 2003.
He leads a biocontrol research team that is involved in the development of novel biocontrol technologies for controlling pathogenic bacteria on food, animals and in food processing environments.
Changing consumer preferences, export market regulations, and use of new technologies in food manufacturing require new tools such as biocontrol to ensure that the safety and quality of foods is maintained. Craig’s work has included developing a biocontrol to kill Listeria in milk under refrigeration conditions and more recently finding biocontrols that target toxigenic Escherichia coli O157:H7.
“At the 2014 Red Meat Sector Conference ESR launched a natural biocontrol treatment for shiga-toxigenic E. coli O157 (STEC O157) that was developed in close association with the Meat Industry Association,” Craig says.
The biocontrol treatment, STECleanz®, contains naturally occurring bacteria-specific viruses (phages) that attack and destroy harmful STEC O157 bacteria that can affect human health and cause meat exports to be rejected. ESR is currently working on developing a biocontrol treatment for another six STEC serotypes.
“Biocontrols offer an important alternative to chemicals in terms of managing pathogens.
“We are in various stages of development and testing of several biocontrol products that are designed to benefit our food sector.
“As a scientist, it’s extremely satisfying to work at the forefront of biocontrol research while also finding solutions that can be applied to some of today’s greatest food safety and health issues,” Craig says.
Craig earned his PhD in molecular microbiology at the University of Canterbury. He went on to serve as a research assistant at Lincoln University, before returning to the University of Canterbury as a Postdoctoral Fellow.