The title says it all. Context: food preservation
As Lars Friedrich already wrote, curing with salt is a way to kill bacteria. A high sugar content and the removal of water in general alters the water activity.1
Some chemicals are toxic to bacteria (and to some extend also toxic to humans) like borax (which is used to preserve caviar; I'm not sure if it only inhibits the growth of bacteria) or ethanol (drinking alcohol). Sulfites are used - not exclusively - in wine making and on dried fruit.
You can alter the pH. I doubt the food will be edible as-it-is.
Last but not least you can irradiate the food to sterilize it. Irradiation is also commonly used to sterilize (disposable?) medical equipment.
Please note that freezing does not kill any bacteria.
Side note: There are some other bacteria that survive even in such adverse environments but they are not common as foodborne pathogens. If you really want to be sure that the food is sterile without cooking, you have pressure-sterilize, "poison" it or irradiate it.
You can also preserve food even with bacteria and fungi: A sourdough has an almost indefinitely shelf-live. It basically only consists of flour, water and a mix of many different bacteria and yeasts. Cultured milk also has a very long shelf life.
For further reading: The FAT TOM rule describes the six favorable conditions required for the growth of foodborne pathogens.
1 Caveat: (Botulinum) spores survive in honey. Do they count as bacteria?
The term is "cold sterilization"; most methods will indeed be out of reach of home users. Some of the methods used in industry seem to be just sieving the bacteria out (microfiltration), pressurizing everything to 50000 psi, or obviously chemicals that remain in the food as preservatives or that self-decompose into relatively inert compounds in storage (Dimethyldicarbonate). Some compounds in common seasonings (Turmeric, Onions/Garlic, Chilies) are claimed to have an effect that lowers bacterial growth (but does not completely inhibit it).
Classic sour pickles actually contain a very small amount of salt -- just enough to discourage most bacteria and encourage the growth of Lactobacillus acidophilus. LBA's byproducts then kill off whatever else was trying to compete with it.
Vinegar pickles likewise are a hostile environment for most organisms.
(Folks not too much younger than me can remember when stores had barrels of pickles and you'd just grab the ones you wanted with a pair of tongs. No refrigeration needed.)
Other folks have covered other traditional ways of preserving food -- drying, smoking, etc. A properly cured ham can hang on a hook for years and still be edible, though you may need to trim off the moldy outer surface.
While we're speaking of mold: cheese is another food protected by curing, using various cultures. And again, if you don't mind trimming off the rind, many hard cheeses can pretty much look after themselves.
So can butter, actually -- it may go rancid due to chemical breakdown if not kept cool, but other than that it doesn't need to be refrigerated. Ditto most oils. Ditto most fruit; it may get moldy or start to ferment due to harmless organisms, but otherwise can look after itself longer than most Americans think it can.
In the Federal Register of August 18, 2006, FDA announced that it had approved the use of a bacteriophage preparation made from six individually purified phages to be used on RTE meat and poultry products as an antimicrobial agent against Listeria monocytogenes.
In Home-settings; our family do as the following -
For meat => Use Lemons or limes
- Just simply slice the lemons and squeeze it over the meat in a bowl.
- Leave it for 15 minutes or more (can also refrigerated for overnight if you wish to prepare for another day)
For vegetable => Use salt
- In a bowl of water, add some amount of salt
- Then, add vegetable (after cut)
- Leave it for 15 minutes or more
I hope that's what you are looking for. Thanks.