I have spent years scouring the literature, supervising and advising post-graduate projects in research and conducting benchtop trials on natural preservatives and the anti-microbial properties of extracts of a range of indigenous Australian herbs.

Finally, I have formulated a food flavouring I call Herbal-Active® which just happens to be strongly anti-microbial at the tiny addition rate of 0.05%. This could just be the natural preservative the food and cosmetic industry has been seeking to replace potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate.

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.

There is now an Australian alternative on the market and early adopters have found that Herbal-Active® works brilliantly.

The smart thing about my blended herb extract as a natural preservative is that it uses the natural synergistic activity found when combining two or more extracts so the sum is much greater than the parts.

I can’t give you the recipe as it is a trade secret but I can say that the proprietary blend is all natural and made from extracts of a combination of ordinary herbs and spices. This means that a product’s label only needs to state ‘natural flavours’. And the claims of ‘Preservative free’ can be made liberally.

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

So far it has proven effective in low pH beverages, sauces and condiments, more neutral pH preserved cheeses, a fruit juice concentrate and a skin care range of cosmetics. Herbal-Active® has applications in baked products, cold formulated products and other products where a natural preservative is beneficial to both, shelf life and food safety. From challenge trials, components in Herbal-Active® are also anti-bacterial and effective against both gram positive and gram negative organisms, including most of the food spoilage organisms. Interestingly, Herbal-Active® has little to no activity against lactic acid bacteria suggesting a role in protecting fermented dairy and meat products against food spoilage organisms while not inhibiting the lactic acid fermentation of production.

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