Antimicrobials On Food

The effective use of antimicrobials in food products is best summarized in P. Michael Davidson, John N. Sofos and A. L. Branen’s recently published third edition of Antimicrobials In Food. Antimicrobials continue to be one of the most important classes of food additives  The book summarizes:

The consequences of unintended microbial growth in foods are hazards due to the presence of pathogenic microorganisms or economic losses due to spoilage microorganisms. Preservation technologies are designed to protect foods from the effects of microorganisms and inherent deterioration. Microorganisms in foods may be inhibited or inactivated by physical methods (e.g., heat, cold, reduced water activity) or through application of antimicrobial compounds. Food antimicrobials, including chemical sanitizers, may be broadly defined as chemical compounds present in or added to foods, food packaging, food contact surfaces, or food processing environments that inhibit the growth of, or inactivate, pathogenic or spoilage microorganisms. Historically, the primary function of food antimicrobials has been to prolong shelf life and preserve quality through the inhibition of spoilage microorganisms. In the past 10 to 15 years, however, antimicrobials have been increasingly utilized as a primary intervention for the inhibition or inactivation of pathogenic microorganisms in foods. This function becomes increasingly important as food processors search for more and better tools to improve food safety.

Antimicrobials continue to be one of the most important classes of food additives. Research on antimicrobials, especially naturally occurring compounds, has increased dramatically in the past 10 to 15 years. The primary incentive for searching for effective antimicrobials among naturally occurring compounds is to expand the spectrum of antimicrobial activity over that of the traditional, regulatory-approved substances. Most of the traditional food antimicrobials have limited application due to pH or food component interactions. Interest in natural antimicrobials is also driven by the fact that international regulatory agencies are generally very strict as to requirements for toxico- logical evaluation of novel direct food antimicrobials. An argument often used to justify natural antimicrobials is that they will produce “green” labels (i.e., with few or no “synthetic” additives in the ingredient list). However, this justification may lead consumers to the mistaken belief that antimicrobial food additives currently in use are potentially toxic and should be avoided.

In short, antimicrobials are a proven effective means of killing microorganisms in food – without having an adverse effect on consumers.  They also help achieve longer shelf-life for food products without impacting manufacturing processes.

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