Biopreservation is the use of natural or controlled microbiota or antimicrobials as a way of preserving food and extending its shelf life. Beneficial bacteria or the fermentation products produced by these bacteria are used in biopreservation to control spoilage and render pathogens inactive in food. It is a benign ecological approach which is gaining increasing attention.
Of special interest are lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Lactic acid bacteria have antagonistic properties which make them particularly useful as biopreservatives. When LABs compete for nutrients, their metabolites often include active antimicrobials such as lactic and acetic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and peptide bacteriocins. Some LABs produce the antimicrobial nisin which is a particularly effective preservative.
A bacterium that is a suitable candidate for use as a biopreservative does not necessarily have to ferment the food. But if conditions are suitable for microbial growth, then a biopreservative bacterium will compete well for nutrients with the spoilage and pathogenic bacteria in the food. As a product of its metabolism, it should also produce acids and other antimicrobial agents, particularly bacteriocins. Biopreservative bacteria, such as lactic acid bacteria, must be harmless to humans.
These days LAB bacteriocins are used as an integral part of hurdle technology. Using them in combination with other preservative techniques can effectively control spoilage bacteria and other pathogens, and can inhibit the activities of a wide spectrum of organisms, including inherently resistant Gram-negative bacteria."
In fish processing, biopreservation is achieved by adding antimicrobials or by increasing the acidity of the fish muscle. Most bacteria stop multiplying when the pH is less than 4.5. Traditionally, acidity has been increased by fermentation, marination or by directly adding acetic, citric or lactic acid to food products. Other preservatives include nitrites, sulphites, sorbates, benzoates and essential oils.
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- FAO: Preservation techniques Fisheries and aquaculture department, Rome. Updated 27 May 2005. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
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