In a new review article published online on April 21, 2015 in the peer-reviewed journal RSC Advances, scientists from the University of Alicante, Spain discuss the potential use of herbs, spices and their bioactive compounds in active food packaging systems. As the authors point out, active packaging technologies have greatly developed over the last decade with the aim of increasing the shelf-life of packaged foodstuffs. This is achieved by addition of antioxidant/antimicrobial components to the packaging material. Herbs and spices are renewable and biodegradable sources of chemicals with high antioxidant/antimicrobial performance. Therefore they are potentially good candidates for active packaging.

In their new study, Valdés and colleagues give several examples of herb extracts (ginseng, rosemary, green tea, murta, mint, gingko leaf) that can be directly incorporated into polymer matrices. The authors also highlight that it is possible to incorporate essential oils (EOs) from herbs into polymer matrices. For example, oregano essential oil can be successfully added to ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH) films to produce antioxidant/antimicrobial active packaging. Spice extracts can also be incorporated as EOs into natural or synthetic polymers in food packaging applications e.g., whey protein films incorporated with cinnamon and cumin EOs can extend the shelf life of fresh beef. The authors further discuss the development of active systems based on materials able to host a variety of bioactive compounds extracted from herbs and spices. According to the authors, deeper insight in the interactions of herbs, spices and their bioactive compounds with biopolymer matrices is, however, still needed and further studies are currently on-going.

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Valdés, A. et al. (2015). “Use of herbs, spices and their bioactive compounds in active food packaging.RSC Advances (published online April 21, 2015).