By: Suzanne Osborne, Ph.D
Lately, while shopping at my local grocery store, I have noticed the increasing number of food products marketed as organic or preservative-free. More and more, consumers are demanding green labels and ingredient lists they can understand. Yet food safety — preventing food spoilage and contamination from microbial pathogens — must remain a top priority for food producers. The food safety industry faces many challenges if it is to transition away from the use of refined chemicals toward more label-friendly preservatives.1
“Natural” food-preservation techniques require antimicrobial treatments that come in the form of whole food ingredients or extracts; they also require innovative methods for applying these natural antimicrobials to the product. Research has already discovered several whole-food ingredients with antimicrobial abilities (see Table 1).
It is hard to determine which food antimicrobial is best. This is because there are multiple ways to test whether a food antimicrobial is working and the findings are not always easy to directly compare. It does appear that combining several natural antimicrobials is often the most effective at limiting product contamination and ensuring food safety.2