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Researchers at Texas A&M University are developing an innovative coating to enhance food safety by prolonging the shelf life of produce and preventing harmful bacterial contamination.

Dr. Mustafa Akbulut, a professor of chemical engineering, notes the significant technological advancements of our era but highlights a lag in the food industry’s adaptation to these changes. He underscores ongoing challenges in food safety, citing frequent reports of foodborne illnesses and outbreaks due to unhygienic food practices at the national level.

New food-grade wax was developed to enhance the safety of vegetables

A new food-grade wax infused with nano-encapsulated cinnamon-bark essential oil in protein carriers has been developed to enhance the safety of fruits and vegetables. This innovative coating not only adds shine and prevents water loss but also provides antibacterial properties, effectively combating bacteria and fungi on produce.

Horticultural science professor Luis Cisneros-Zevallos highlights the significance of wax coatings in enhancing understanding of microorganism interactions. He emphasizes the potential of such coatings to aid the industry in combating human pathogens and spoilage organisms, offering new technological solutions to industry challenges.

Cinnamon bark essential oil prevents bacteria from attaching to and thriving on fruits and vegetables, crucial for raw or minimally processed produce. Nano-encapsulation ensures delayed release, prolonging its effectiveness by increasing half-life. Essential oil breaks down bacterial walls, aiding in bacterial and fungal inactivation to extend shelf life.

Innovative coating inhibits fungal attachment

Doctoral student Yashwanth Arcot said that the coating inhibits fungal attachment and it was effective against Aspergillus, a fungus causing food spoilage and lung infections. This hybrid technology, which incorporates nano-encapsulated essential oil in food waxes, is the first of its kind and utilizes FDA-approved antibacterial agents.

In the US, 30-40% of the food supply goes to waste, largely due to spoilage and exposure to contaminants like mold and bacteria. This occurs throughout the production process, not solely at the consumer level. Therefore prevention is key to reducing waste and innovative solutions such as nano-encapsulated coatings show promise in extending shelf life. These coatings use FDA-approved ingredients, but further research is needed to address health concerns associated with food additives.