Lifting the lid on the bad bacteria in our burgers

Published: 21 March 2018 at 11:45

A burger in a box

Anglia Ruskin expert will explain how processed foods can be made healthier

Scientists at Anglia Ruskin University are carrying out research that promises to make some of our favourite processed foods healthier, and lead researcher Dr Clett Erridge will discuss his work at a free public talk in Cambridge this weekend. 

The “Burgers, bacteria and heart disease: Making sense of the processed food debate” talk is free to attend, and will take place at Anglia Ruskin University on Saturday, 24 March (2-3pm) as part of the Cambridge Science Festival.

Dr Erridge has discovered that many processed foods contain chemicals that cause our immune systems to be over-activated.  Molecules called PAMPs (pathogen associated molecular pattern) are released by a certain type of bacteria that tends to grow in commonly-used ingredients of many processed foods, with minced meat and chopped onion particularly susceptible. 

When our body detects these chemicals, inflammation is triggered.  This inflammation is thought to increase our risk of developing heart disease and type II diabetes.  In a recent study, the researchers found that a diet low in PAMPs reduced inflammation within just one week.  

Dr Erridge, Senior Lecturer in Biology of Disease at Anglia Ruskin University, said: 


“We found that ready meals and minced meat-based products, such as sausages and burgers, are the foodstuffs that most frequently contained high levels of PAMPs.  Moderate levels were also found in many cheeses and chocolates.

“The PAMPs were found to retain their harmful properties even after cooking for up to two hours.  Using the test we have developed, we believe it should be possible to help manufacturers produce almost any current food in a manner that results in a low content of PAMPs, with the same ingredients, taste and cost.”

Dr Erridge’s talk is one of 10 Cambridge Science Festival events taking place at Anglia Ruskin’s East Road campus on Saturday, 24 March.  Other free talks include “Making sense of the early years” with Dr Sarah Kuppen, and “Attraction explained: the science of how we form relationships” with Professor Viren Swami.  For further details, visit