News and insight for North America's fresh produce buyers
Carl Collen


Wednesday 30th April 2008, 18:00 Central Time

Herbal oils could extend shelf-life

Essential oils could be the key to long-term preservation of fresh-cut products, say researchers

Herbal oils could extend shelf-life

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Researchers in Mexico, eager to find a replacement solution to the use of chlorine in the preservation of fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, are looking at the use of cyclodextrins as carriers for anti-microbial ingredients.

The study, published in the Journal of Food Science, has indicated that essential oils such as rosemary, oregano, coriander, thyme, sage, garlic and onion oils could be key anti-microbial ingredients in extending the shelf-life of fresh-cut products.

"Some spices contain essential oils with antimicrobial activity, such as sulphur compounds in garlic, cinnamaldehyde, and eugenol from cinnamon essential oils," the researchers said. "Growth of different micro-organisms responsible for quality loss in fruits and vegetables can be diminished using these oils."

The research comes on the back of a sharp increase in consumer demand for fresh-cut produce. However, there are lingering concerns that the presence of chlorine could potentially lead to the formation of carcinogens, reports
Cyclodextrins containing anti-microbial oils could potentially help prevent the dramatic loss of water in fresh-cut produce, leading to a reduction in the growth of fungus and moulds.

"Whole and fresh-cut produce are unique among the food products; they remain metabolically active and their shelf-life and storage stability are shortened as consequences of these processes," the researchers said.

The researchers said that the studies will be useful to understand the mode of action of the system, and allow the offering producers a practical method to preserve fresher, more natural foods containing less artificial preservatives. This will also appeal to consumers.

"This helps in maintaining and ever increasing quality by, for example, delivering natural antioxidants to increase the antioxidant capacity of fresh-cut vegetables," they concluded.

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