Natural Preservative Discovered in Grape Seed

URBANA - Food technoilogists at the University of Illinois have discoverd that Grape-seed extract is a viable, natural food preservative.
calendar icon 29 November 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
Grape Seed extract has natural preserving properties with uses for pre-packed and ready-cooked pork products.

Research, headed by Professor Susan Brewer, at has demonstrated that the extract, a by-product of fermentation, can be uses successfully to preserve meat quality in pre-cooked, frozen and refrigerated ready-to-eat meals as an alternative to synthetic ingredients.

The study published recently in the Journal of Food Science, shows that the extract's preserving qualities are mainly due to phenolic compounds

Antioxidant properties
"We've known for years that certain natural compounds, including some herbs and spices, have powerful antioxidant activity. Food scientists have been trying to isolate the flavoring parts of these spices from the components that have the functional effects we're looking for," she said.

The professor was initially very skeptical about the research, but after three successful studies on its preservating potential with meat products, she is convinced that Grape Seed extract offers the food porcessors a viable alternative to synthetic ingredients.

The food industry relies on synthetic preservatives - such as BHA, BHT, and TBHQ - to maintain the quality of meats in pre-cooked foods and ready meals. These ingredients slow down the oxidation of fats. However, Brewer's study show that grape seed extract may be an even more effective antioxidant.

The research compared the natural antioxidants of oregano, rosemary, and grape seed extract and evaluated their effectiveness in cooked, reheated beef and pork at different concentrations, for different lengths of time, and at different temperatures.

The meat was then evaluated for oxidative markers and sensory attributes by a 10-member panel. "The higher concentration of grape-seed extract yielded better results than we see with synthetics, which is certainly not what you'd expect. Synthetics, after all, have been engineered to maximize effectiveness, but sometimes Mother Nature comes up with a better product."

No taint
Another plus was that the sensory panel couldn't detect grape-seed extract in the products it tested, whereas foods containing oregano and rosemary retained an herbal odor. "They must be carrying some of the volatile aroma compounds at low levels," the researcher said.

Studies are ongoing in Brewer's lab, this time comparing the efficacy and sensory qualities of natural versus synthetic antioxidants.

"I really think grape-seed extract is a viable, natural way to preserve meat quality in the precooked entrees that are so popular now," she said. "And, when companies can use the word natural on a label, it's attractive to consumers. It takes some of the guilt out of using a convenience food."

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