Plant extracts for the control of bacterial growth: Efficacy, stability and safety issues for food application
Pradeep Singh Negi
Human Resource Development Department, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research - Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore 570 020, India.
The microbial safety of foods continues to be a major concern to consumers, regulatory agencies and food industries throughout the world. Many food preservation strategies have been used traditionally for the control of microbial spoilage in foods but the contamination of food and spoilage by microorganisms is a problem yet to be controlled adequately. Although synthetic antimicrobials are approved in many countries, the recent trend has been for use of natural preservatives, which necessitates the exploration of alternative sources of safe, effective and acceptable natural preservatives. Plants contain innumerable constituents and are valuable sources of new and biologically active molecules possessing antimicrobial properties. Plants extracts either as standardized extracts or as a source of pure compounds provide unlimited opportunities for control of microbial growth owing to their chemical diversity. Many plant extracts possess antimicrobial activity against a range of bacteria, yeast and molds, but the variations in quality and quantity of their bioactive constituents is the major detriments in their food use. Further, phytochemicals added to foods may be lost by various processing techniques. Several plant extracts or purified compounds intended for food use have been consumed by humans for thousands of years, but typical toxicological information is not available for them. Although international guidelines exist for the safety evaluation of food additives, owing to problems in standardization of plant extracts, typical toxicological values have not been assigned to them. Development of cost effective isolation procedures that yield standardized extracts as well as safety and toxicology evaluation of these antimicrobials requires a deeper investigation.