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Antimicrobial edible films inhibit pathogens in meat

Edible films currently used to seal in and preserve the flavour, freshness and colour of food products may also have the potential to improve the safety and quality of meat, through incorporation of essential oils or nanoparticles. These are the results of a study conducted by researchers at the College of Agricultural Science in Pennsylvania State University into the potential efficacy of such films.
The study evaluated the microbiological action of four agents – essential oils of rosemary and oregano, and nanoparticles of zinc oxide and silver – in meat and poultry, and the effectiveness of pullulan films incorporating these materials in inhibiting pathogens. Work was performed in three stages: initial pathogens were treated with 2% of one of the four compounds and their survival rate assessed. Subsequently, four modified pullulan films, each containing one agent, were created and their antimicrobial activity assessed. Finally, a selection of meat and poultry products were treated with the films, vacuum packed and then bacterial growth assessed during refrigerated storage for a period of up to three weeks.
It was found that use of the films led to a significant inhibition of growth, suggesting that such films have potential as a novel but effective means of delivering antimicrobial agents to meats. The bacteria-killing action of the films is both longer-lasting and more effective than liquid applications; the films adhere to the meat, allowing the incorporated antimicrobials to slowly dissolve into the surface. However, the researchers caution that these films are at present unlikely to replace the plastic packaging currently used, due to limitations in oxygen-impermeablity, and noted that further research is required into the effects of adding these compounds to the films on their mechanical properties.
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