Providers have been put on alert that a specific sugar added to hundreds of foods could fuel outbreaks of Clostridium difficile.

Trehalose is a naturally occurring sugar used an additive for taste and shelf-stability, scientists report in the journal Nature.

Easily and cheaply extracted from corn starch, it helps feed certain strains of C. diff. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, which corresponds to an upswing of C. diff outbreaks, researchers found. Trehalose, also known as mycose or tremalose, is used in everything from ground beef to ice cream.

“If a hospital or long-term nursing care facility has an outbreak of C. difficile caused by a RT027 or RT078 strain, then patients’ diets should be modi ed to restrict trehalose consumption,” said Robert A. Britton, Ph.D., of Baylor College of Medicine.