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Eco-friendly sanitizers with broad antimicrobial spectrum as an alternative to the use of chlorinated compounds in post-harvest sanitation of citrus fruits


The Gross Domestic Product of the Brazilian agricultural sector was 243 billion reais in the year 2021, an increase of 15.88% compared to the previous year, the sector remained heated and grew during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Brazil ranks among the largest exporters of citrus fruits in the world, highlighting the fresh 'Tahiti' acid lime. Within this context, the correct cleaning and sanitization of the fruits is of paramount importance for microbiological control, therefore, adequate handling practices must be applied in the phases of harvest, post-harvest, storage, distribution and commercialization. The chlorinated compounds, mainly sodium hypochlorite, are the most used for this purpose, as it is a cheap product with a broad antimicrobial spectrum. However, the use of sodium hypochlorite for the sanitization of citrus fruits has been adopted only for the Brazilian domestic market, and its use in the foreign market is prohibited by the sanctions imposed by the European Union for generating toxic by-products and also reducing the effectiveness of disinfection of fruits by increasing microbial resistance. In view of the above, it is necessary to search for alternatives with less environmental impact and fewer health risks. The present proposal is a proof of concept, where natural products will be used as components of a nano-structured formulation for application as a post-harvest citrus fruit sanitizer following the resolution of GMC No. 24/05. The nanoformulations will be evaluated in different compositions, varying the concentration of compounds to determine better antimicrobial activity linked to low toxicity and satisfactory stability profile. The formulations will be tested in vitro against microorganisms present in citrus fruits, later the formulations with the highest antimicrobial potential will be tested on fresh fruits using the spray and immersion methods. In the case of formulations that will be in contact with workers almost daily and that will be discarded as effluents, cytotoxicity and toxicity studies are necessary. Therefore, cytotoxicity and toxicity studies will be carried out in MRC-5 cell lines, lettuce seeds (Lactuca sativa) and in Daphnia similis microcrustacean, respectively. The stability profile of the formulations will be evaluated according to art. 34 of RDC 59/10. As a result, it is expected to obtain nanostructured, stable formulations with low toxicity, broad spectrum of antimicrobial action, effective and low cost. This proposal was validated through more than 150 interviews with different actors in the Brazilian agricultural sector and based on the problems reported, a business model was created with a view to developing a product that solves the main "pains" of citrus growers. This project will be carried out by the NPsmart team, a young, technology-based company that strives for innovation and product development following the precepts of medicinal and environmental green chemistry. Therefore, having Fapesp's approval and support for this proposal reinforces our expertise and motivates us to participate in this transformative movement with wide possibilities for economic, social and especially environmental gain. (AU)

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