Wrapped up in Basil

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, Herb

A recently published report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food
Chemistry highlights how the herb basil, when incorporated into
plastic wrapping, can enhance food safety.

A recently published report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry​ highlights how the herb basil, when incorporated into plastic wrapping, can enhance food safety.

The basil, which has long been known to contain bacteria-fighting properties, is incorporated into the plastic wrapping to preserve foods. The extracts methyl chavicol and linalool ooze out of the wrapping and slow the growth of eight types of lethal bacteria including E. coli and listeria. Experiments showed the wrapping extends the shelf life of cheese and most likely of meats, fish, baked goods, fruits and vegetables.

The research, which appeared in the May 21 edition of the journal was also presented at the annual symposium of the International Packaging Research Institutes in Valencia, Spain by lead researcher Prof. Joseph Miltz of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Faculty of Food Engineering and Biotechnology, and by Profs. K. Sonneveld, S. Bigger and doctoral student Panuwat Suppakul from the Victoria University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

Basil is an ideal packaging choice because it does not impart its flavour to the foods since only small quantities of the extracts are needed; also, because the active chemicals come from a natural source they don't degrade into harmful by-products, Miltz explained.

The researchers developed the idea of using basil in packaging when they read about research on adding basil to foods as a preservative.

Miltz knew that bacteria that cause spoilage are found on the food's surface, so there was no reason to incorporate large quantities of the basil into the food. Instead, the researchers incorporated the basil extracts into the packaging in much lower concentrations. Later these extracts diffuse onto the surface of the food, killing the microorganisms.

"One of the biggest challenges is to find the right plastic composition to make the basil-containing wrap,"​ Miltz said.

Production of plastic wrapping is carried out at high temperatures, which cause evaporation of the basil-extract molecules. Additionally, the wrap is permeable, which allows the basil extracts to escape to the outside atmosphere.

To counter this, the researchers are developing a multi-layered plastic with an impermeable outer layer and porous inner walls that will limit the flow of basil molecules to the inside of the package only. Marketing of the basil wrap will follow these improvements.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel's leading science and technology university. It has a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine.

Based in New York City, the American Technion Society​ is the leading American organisation supporting higher education in Israel, with more than 20,000 supporters and 17 offices around the country.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars