Plant-based better than artificial food preservatives, scientists claim

Plant-based better than artificial food preservatives, scientists claim
In tests, the organic preservative (left) kept its samples fresh for two days without refrigeration (credit: NTU Singapore).

Researchers in Singapore have discovered a plant-based food preservative which they claim is more effective than artificial preservatives.

The organic preservative comprises a naturally-occurring substance known as ‘flavonoids’, a diverse group of phytonutrients found in almost all fruits and vegetables.

The flavonoids created by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists have strong anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties – two key traits of preservatives that inhibit bacterial growth and keep food fresher for longer.

In tests carried out on meat and fruit juice samples, the organic preservative kept its samples fresh for two-days without refrigeration, compared to commercial-grade artificial food preservatives.

The experiment was conducted at room temperature where the other food samples with artificial preservatives succumbed to bacteria contamination within six hours. Findings were published in Food Chemistry.

The research team was led by Professor William Chen, Director of NTU’s Food Science & Technology programme. The team is already in talks with multinational companies to further develop the new food preservative.

Prof Chen said: “This organic food preservative is derived from plants and produced from food grade microbes, which means that it is 100% natural.

“It is also more effective than artificial preservatives and does not require any further processing to keep food fresh.

“This may open new doors in food preservation technologies, providing a low-cost solution for industries, which will in turn encourage a sustainable food production system that can produce healthier food that stay fresh longer.”

This research comes at a time when there is a growing body of scientific evidence on how artificial preservatives affect the body’s long-term growth and development.

The research team aims to further develop their findings with the food industry and enhance its efficacy and safety so that it can be used in all packaged food products.