Australian Functional Ingredients – by Vic Cherikoff

Australian Natural preservative - Kills bacteria, Slows Down Kids

This was the press release just sent out around the world on my natural preservative, Herbal-Active®. You might have read sections of it in past blogs but no harm thinking about the ramifications of eating all those preservatives in our food. It seems we are not rotting in the grave as we used to do:

PRESS RELEASE

A recent article about a new, carefully controlled study in the UK on sodium benzoate (a common food preservative) and food colourings in foods showed that some artificial additives increase hyperactivity and decrease attention span in a wide range of children, not just those for whom over-activity has been diagnosed as a learning problem.

Fortunately, Herbal-Active® is a new, natural antimicrobial made from extracts of culinary herbs made by Vic Cherikoff Food Services Pty Ltd is strongly anti-microbial at the tiny addition rate of 0.1%. This could just be the natural preservative the food, beverage and cosmetic industries have been seeking to replace sorbates and benzoates.

“The smart thing about my culinary herb blend as a natural preservative, is that it uses the synergistic activity gained when combining multiple compounds, just like the common use of sodium benzoate in combination with potassium sorbate. With Herbal-Active® the end result is over 20 times greater than the sum of the parts.” states Vic Cherikoff, the scientist behind the new natural antimicrobial.

Natural preservatives made from conventional herbs such as rosemary, tend to also impart a taste to the foods in which they are used. In cosmetics, extracts of grapefruit seed and Kiwifruit (Chinese gooseberry) are finding some applications but they have not migrated into the food industry.

Herbal-Active® has only just been soft-launched and early adopters have found that it works brilliantly.

The proprietary blend is all natural and made from extracts of a combination of ordinary culinary herbs. This means that a product’s label only needs to state ‘herb extracts’ (or culinary herb extracts) and the claim of ‘Preservative free’ can be made.

Testing all the applications of Herbal-Active® in the many and varied manufacturing scenarios is a daunting task so manufacturers who have a need for a natural preservative are asked to request a sample of Herbal-Active® and test it for themselves.

So far it has proven effective in low pH beverages, a juice based nutritional supplement, sauces and condiments, more neutral pH preserved cheeses, a fruit juice concentrate and a skin care range of cosmetics. Herbal-Active® has applications in cold formulated products and other products where a natural preservative is beneficial to both, shelf life and food safety. From challenge trials, components in the formulation are very effective against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria, including most of the food spoilage organisms.

Herbal-Active® can also be used as a 1% solution in the kitchen to treat red and white meats and even strawberries and cucumbers, all which have spoilage problems on storage. It has applications in pet foods and even stock feed where antibiotics are occasionally used in feed to reduce pathogen loads.

One challenge did arise in initial tests:

While an addition rate of 0.07 to 0.1% of the Herbal-Active®, will stop yeasts and bacteria in their tracks, moulds are a little more resilient.

Tests showed that at 1% even these fungal brutes succumb to this uniquely Australian natural preservative. However, at this level, Herbal-Active® is too strongly flavoured (no problem in cosmetics) if this were the final concentration needed.

So a protocol has been designed as a way around this problem:

The product in question was a mixture of a variety of fruit concentrates and powders. Several fruits were found to be major sources of mould contamination and so all the whole fruits were dipped in Herbal-Active® at 1%. The fruits spent only seconds in the solution, were drained well and passed through a sanitized brush finisher. The Herbal-Active® solution was re-used many times and up to 1000kg was dipped in 40kg of solution.

The fruit pulps were combined in the correct proportion to the recipe for the mixed puree, product. In another container, Herbal-Active® powder was mixed into the other powders to be added to the recipe. The rate of addition was such as to give a 0.1% Herbal-Active™ content in the final fruit puree/powder mixture. A small amount of the fruit pulp blend was added to the Herbal-Active® and powder mix to hydrate it slowly. The balance was added and the blending completed.

The net result of this approach is to expose the ingredients with high microbial loads to high levels of Herbal-Active®, preferably around the 1% mark. By then using pure diluents, the concentration of Herbal-Active® can then be reduced to tasteless thresholds.

The result was a vastly extended shelf life with moulds, yeasts and bacteria all brought down to extremely low levels near zero.

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Vic Cherikoff