As unbelievable as it seems, there is a new way of keeping foods fresh which is far superior to the conventional plastic films. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, an edible film coated in a combination of clove and oregano essential oils kept bread fresh for longer than conventional plastic and calcium propionate, a common food preservative.
A team of researchers from the Department of Food Technology at the Federal University of Vicosa in Brazil investigated the effects of essential oils after discovering their potent antimicrobial properties. Being aware of the importance of finding modern solutions to food preservation that are free of toxic chemicals, the researchers started exploring how essential oils could be the right solution.
They used low-speed mixing and ultrasonication techniques to form coarse emulsions and nanoemulsions of love bud (Syzygium aromaticum) and oregano (Origanum vulgare). Then, they also added a type of fiber called methylcellulose, an edible fiber whose role was to form film sheets out of the oils.
When the researchers applied these sheets to the preservative- free bread, they noted a reduction in yeast and mold counts within 15 days, with the smaller particles adding stronger preservation. When compared to the effect of plastic and calcium propionate, the sheets made out of essential oils kept the bread fresh for longer, not wearing off like conventional preservatives.
“Both essential oils reduced the rigidity and increased the extensibility of the methylcellulose films, effects that were even more pronounced for nanodroplets,” wrote the researchers. “Both essential oils lessened the counts of yeasts and molds in sliced bread during 15 days, and droplet size reduction provided a further improvement in antimicrobial properties.”
Essential oils are superior to plastic and chemicals
It is worth noting that the essential oil infusions worked much better at stopping mold growth on bread compared to calcium propionate. This is very important since natural solutions are typically considered inferior to conventional ones. However, in this case, they proved to be even more effective in providing long-term protection.
Another concerning fact regarding the usage of plastic and chemical preservatives to extend the shelf life of bread and other food items are the leakage of chemicals in the food itself. Some of the most common chemicals include hormone-disrupting substances like plasticizers and phthalates.
According to a report by Chemical & Engineering News published by the American Chemical Society (ACS), “Leachables from plastics can include everything from leftover monomer building blocks to additives used to make plastic strong or malleable.”
“Probably the most infamous leachable from plastics is bisphenol A (BPA), which is used as a building block in polycarbonate bottles and in the epoxy resin liners of metal cans.”
Essential oils: the wave of the future for food preservation
The potential use of essential oil-infused edible packaging extends food`s shelf life better and more efficiently than the conventional way. Paper, metal, and even glass containers leach chemicals into the food and even in pharmaceutical drugs whose packaging is not regulated.
“If you have a material in contact with food, and if it’s not completely inert–and there are no completely inert materials–something in the packaging will end up in the food,” according Dimitrios Spyropoulos, a regulator at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) who helped lead an investigation into chemical leaching from food packaging back in 2009.