New antimicrobial edible coatings made with essential oils like clove and oregano could boost the shelf life of meats by as much as 50%, researchers at the Public University of Navarre in Spain reported.
Agricultural engineer Idoya Fernandez-Pan, PhD, developed films for coating meats using eight essential oils: oregano, clove, rosemary, white thyme, tea tree, coriander, sage, and laurel. After the essential oil is incorporated into a food-grade (Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS) protein matrix, the coatings can be applied by immersion into the film, by forming solutions, or by spraying.
“Through a bacteriostatic effect, which impedes the proliferation of bacteria, the speed of growth of the pathogen is reduced, thus enhancing the food safety of the product and extending its shelf life,” Dr. Fernandez-Pan said in an e-mail to FQU. Most fresh meat products have a shelf life of four to nine days, depending on the product and how it’s stored. The oregano-based coating, for example, boosted the shelf life of a refrigerated chicken breast to approximately 13 days.
Companies in Spain, the United Kingdom, and Colombia have expressed interest in the coatings, but, at present, the process has only been developed at the laboratory scale. “It is necessary to optimize the application at the industrial level,” Dr. Fernandez-Pan said. “However, it is a technology known for its potentially easy application and relatively cheap process.”
Dr. Fernandez-Pan’s team has submitted their research for publication.