With the ongoing consumer trend towards more natural products, replacing chemical preservatives and sodium by natural antimicrobials is a highly recommended way of cleaning up labels. New preservative solutions lie within combinations of herbs, spices and other ingredients, which show synergistic antimicrobial effects. TNO helps food producers to identify clean label preservative strategies to ensure the shelf life of their processed foods.
Current preservative ingredients can be substituted by “clean label” alternative compounds from natural sources. It is well known that many herbs and spices have antimicrobial activity. TNO is applying and expanding this knowledge to food spoilage organisms. The challenge is not only to determine which herbs and spices have antimicrobial properties, but also to look at how they perform in food systems. The objective is to study the interactions between ingredients and to find synergistic effects that will provide significant inhibitory effects, while having little impact on a food’s sensory quality.
TNO offers screening technologies to study the antimicrobial effects of compounds against any spoilage organism of interest. Using a step-wise approach this technology can be applied to identify synergistic effects between two or more ingredients. TNO has conducted screening studies that have looked at not only the antimicrobial properties of a wide range of herbs and spices but also the variables that are essential to their functionality in food systems, such as the effects of pH and concentration. Various synergistic effects have been identified and will be evaluated in food systems.
In addition, TNO has also developed a method that allows direct measurement of microbial stress responses. This method uses bacterial cells as a biosensor and, thus, as a predictive tool. We have found that gene expression in cells correlates with external stress factors, like temperature and pH. This method enables us to better understand cell behaviour in food-processing environments and can be applied to design appropriate preservation strategies for a specific food product.
TNO's considerable knowledge of preservation and micro-organism behaviour helps us to advise food producers about suitable preservation strategies for their product and production process. If you are facing these challenges as well, please contact TNO to find out how we can be of service.