Researchers have improved upon an edible coating for fresh fruits and vegetables by enabling it to kill deadly E. coli bacteria while also providing a flavor-boost to food. Composed of apple puree and oregano oil, which acts as a natural antibacterial agent, the coating shows promise in laboratory studies of becoming a long-lasting, potent alternative to conventional produce washes, according to a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University of Lleida in Spain.
The study comes on the heels of the recent deadly E. coli outbreak in spinach and amid growing concern by experts that some produce-cleaning techniques may not be effective in destroying E. coli. The study is scheduled for the Nov. 29 issue of the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
"All produce-cleaning methods help to some degree, but our new coatings and films may provide a more concentrated, longer-lasting method for killing bacteria," says Research Leader Tara H. McHugh, Ph.D., a food chemist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Albany, Calif. As the films are made of fruit or vegetable puree, they also provide added health benefits such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, she says.
Researchers have known about the antimicrobial activity of plant-derived essential oils for some time, but McHugh says that her group is the first to incorporate them into a fruit- or vegetable-based edible food wrap for the purpose of improving food safety. Three years ago, she and her associates developed a similar edible food wrap, but without the antimicrobial properties.
The new antimicrobial coatings have not been tested on fresh produce yet, McHugh notes. The current study only tested the coatings against E. coli O157:H7, a potentially deadly strain of the common bacterium Escherichia coli, but tests on other foodborne pathogens, including Salmonella, are ongoing or planned in the fu
Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society