The method has the potential to replace two commonly used preservatives. Benzoic acid is used in acidic foods such as jams, salad dressing, juices, pickles, carbonated drinks.
Sorbic acid is found in cheese, wine, and baked goods. These preservatives, although effective, can be toxic in high doses.
Phytonext and TOP BV have collaborated on producing preservatives from natural options that inhibit growth of micro-organisms. Unlike conventional preservatives, these natural extracts are also active in non-acid foods such as dough, soups, sauces and processed meats.
The extraction process
“It is a similar process to supercritical CO2 extraction, however operating on significantly lower pressures and temperatures,” said Eral Osmanoglou, business developer at TOP FoodLab.
Phytonext added that the method developed uses no chemical (and often toxic) solvents to extract the natural preservatives, employing a mild and clean extraction process.
“The method also decreases operational and investment costs resulting in extracts of higher quality,” Osmanoglou claimed.
Concerns about the safety of chemical additives have arisen in recent years as consumers progressively demand the use of natural products as alternative preservatives in foods.
In the trend to ‘clean label’, existing, synthetic preservatives are becoming less desirable. Current preservatives are only effective in acidified products.
This has placed increasing pressure on industrial product manufacturers to offer effective, natural preservatives at an economical price.
However, a consequence of removing a particular ingredient, which once created an inhospitable environment for bacteria and fungi, will have a significant impact on product quality.
These pressures are exacerbated by the popularity of ready-to-eat fresh food products. Artificial preservatives meet some of these challenges by preserving freshness for longer periods of time, but these preservatives can cause negative side-effects as well.
Many food manufacturers have reformed their products to eliminate this combination, but a risk still exists.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) toxicity of benzoic acid in humans is low. However, it can cause non-immunological contact reactions.
This effect is scarce in healthy subjects; in patients with frequent urticaria or asthma, symptoms or exacerbation of symptoms was observed.
A provisional tolerable intake of 5 mg/kg body weight per day was recommended although contact reactions at lower doses could still occur.
The next steps for Phytonext and TOP is to test the application. The methodology is expected to be available in the market in two years’ time
“There is a lot of work to be done in microbiological validation,” said Osmanoglou.
“This will be done thorough risk assessments and growth experiments for different kinds of products in different kinds of environments.”
Phytonext did not disclose further details of the feasibility study or the natural preservatives that were produced.