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Essential Oils for Food Packaging
Essential oils (EOs) are concentrated liquid mixtures of volatile compounds with antioxidant and antibacterial properties that can be used as natural, eco-friendly, renewable, and cost-effective additives. The use of combinations of different EOs and their components is a promising strategy to increase the synergistic and additive effects of EOs in foods.
Microbial food spoilage and oxidative deterioration during the storage of foods are major concerns for our society. Pathogenic microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, spoil perishable foods, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry, and fresh cereal-based products, and generally cause changes in flavor, texture, color, odor, and taste . In addition, enzymes, air, light, and temperature cause changes in color, texture, and flavor, and reduce the shelf life of foods, thereby increasing the risk of foodborne illness. As a result, artificial or synthetic preservatives have been used by the food industry for many years. These artificial preservatives are chemical substances such as nitrites, benzoates, propionates, and sorbates, which destroy bacteria or inhibit the growth of mold on foods. Similarly, sulfites, tocopherol, ascorbic acid, butylated hydroxyanisole, and butylated hydroxytoluene are antioxidants that inhibit oxidation and disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, citric acid, and polyphosphates are chelating agents that can slow down or restrict the deterioration of food . However, it is very important for consumers to be aware of some synthetic preservatives that are toxic, carcinogenic, and commonly used at high concentrations . Thereby, it is essential that consumers purchase safer, high-quality, natural, and less processed foods that are free from synthetic preservatives and have extended shelf lives. This situation has motivated scientists to explore natural alternatives to chemical or synthetic food preservatives.
Packaging systems play a primary role in containing and adequately protecting food products as they move through the supply chain to the consumer. The use of proper packaging methods and materials to maintain/provide high quality, superior taste, fresh, safe, and convenient food products have constantly increased in recent decades . In addition, packaging meets the fundamental need to extend the shelf life of food by preventing unwanted chemical and biological changes from production to final consumption. Consequently, changes in retail practices, globalization of markets, centralization of activities, and longer transport distances have become major challenges for food packaging industries in designing supply chains and moving food products to consumers . The main function of packaging is to provide passive protection to the products or act as a barrier between the food, atmosphere, and the external environment . Some properties of the additives with active functions in food packaging systems include absorbing/scavenging properties (additives include moisture, oxygen, carbon dioxide, ethylene, flavors, and UV light); releasing/emitting properties (e.g., antioxidants, preservatives, sulfur dioxide); removing properties (e.g., lactose and cholesterol); and temperature, and microbial control .
Among natural antimicrobials, EOs have been widely used as food flavors because of their antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and antimutagenic properties. EOs are liquid mixtures of volatile and hydrophobic compounds obtained from different parts of aromatic medicinal plants, such as leaves, buds, flowers, shoots, peels, barks, twigs, fruits, seeds, and roots. They provide the essence of the plant with specific odoriferous and lipophilic characteristics, which are responsible for the aroma and flavor of spices . Currently, approximately 3000 varieties of EOs are well known, of which approximately 300 are commercially important in the flavor, fragrance, pharmaceutical, food, and cosmetic industries . Moreover, it is well known that plants produce a wide variety of secondary metabolites with remarkably low boiling points that influence the oxidative stability of EOs and have good antioxidant properties to protect food from rancidity . EOs are secreted by specialized secretory plant tissues called glandular trichomes, which are multicellular epidermal glands that diffuse onto the surface of plant organs, particularly leaves and flowers . EOs secreted by trichomes are a mixture of several low molecular weights (<300 Da) and other volatile compounds, including terpenoids, phenylpropanoids, isoprenoids, phenols, alcohols, and aldehydes .
The amount of EOs varies among different components, parts of plants, and plant species, and this determines the price of EOs. The main EOs responsible for antimicrobial and antioxidant properties are thyme, lemon, clove, cinnamon, and tea tree oils, which effectively increase the quality and shelf life of food and other cereal products . The antimicrobial action of EOs is mainly a consequence of their hydrophobic nature, which enables them to partition into the lipid layer cell membrane and mitochondria, providing them with greater permeability, causing damage and disrupting the cell wall structures . Thus, EOs are promising alternative compounds to serve as natural additives, preservatives, and active packaging systems in food and food products to reduce the existing problems associated with food safety risks from chemically synthesized additives .
2. Role of Essential Oils in Active Food Packaging Applications
3. Synergistic Advantages of Different Essential Oils
This entry is adapted from 10.3390/biom11091267
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