Enhancing fresh produce safety with edible wax technology

Thursday, 22 February, 2024

Enhancing fresh produce safety with edible wax technology

Post-harvest losses of fruits due to decay and concerns regarding microbial food safety are significant within the produce processing industry.

Many fruits and vegetables already have a layer of food-grade wax that is applied for cosmetic reasons and to prevent water loss. However, a new method has been developed that combines such wax with nano-encapsulated cinnamon-bark essential oil in protein carriers to enhance them with antibacterial properties.

Dr Mustafa Akbulut, Professor of chemical engineering, teamed up with horticultural science Professor Luis Cisneros-Zevallos to engineer this solution to improve fresh produce safety.

Foodborne pathogens are especially problematic for fruits and vegetables that are consumed raw or minimally processed due to the lack of high temperatures that can inactivate them.

Akbulut’s wax coating technology is designed to bolster the safety of fresh produce and provide enhanced protection against bacteria and fungi. The composite coating provides both immediate and delayed antibacterial effects, according to the article that has been published in Current Research in Food Science.

Nano-encapsulated essential oil makes it harder for bacteria to attach and survive on fruits or vegetables. The delayed release of the essential oil increases the half-life of active ingredients and produce compared to its unencapsulated counterparts.

Akbulut said, “When bacteria are exposed to essential oil it can break down the bacterial wall. This technology is going to basically help us inactivate the bacteria and fungi to extend the shelf life.”

Doctoral student Yashwanth Arcot ran experiments to support the research.

“We have tested this system against Aspergillus, a fungus responsible for the spoilage of food commodities and the onset of lung infections in humans. We were successful in preventing its growth on the hybrid coatings,” Arcot said.

The chemicals used to produce this hybrid wax coating are antibacterial agents that are FDA-approved.

The wax coatings have been designed to be easily scalable and can be implemented in the food processing industry.

Image credit: Texas A&M University Engineering.

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