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Development of a natural antifungal agent, obtained from an essential oil, to increase the shelf-life of "in natura" food products

Grant number: 17/08750-0
Support type:Research Grants - Innovative Research in Small Business - PIPE
Duration: March 01, 2018 - December 31, 2018
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Microbiology
Principal Investigator:Thaila Fernanda dos Reis
Grantee:Thaila Fernanda dos Reis
Company:Microcontrol Innovation Ltda. - ME
City: Ribeirão Preto
Assoc. researchers:Andresa Aparecida Berretta e Silva ; Gustavo Henrique Goldman
Associated scholarship(s):18/05592-7 - Development of a natural antifungal agent, obtained from an essential oil, to increase the shelf-life of in natura food products, BP.PIPE

Abstract

Due to a constantly increasing world population, the demand for food is also on the rise. However, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a high percentage of this food is lost from the time it is harvested until it reaches the consumer table reaching. This loss is partially due to foodstuff spoilage by microorganisms, including filamentous fungi such as Aspergillus spp, Fusarium spp. and Rhizopus spp, reaching up to 40% of the food production (Hazan et al., 2004). The tomato is a lycopene-rich fruit that originated from Latin America and represents an important nutritional and nutritive part in the diet of a large part of the world population. Among the different cultivated tomato varieties, the production of mini tomatoes has been accompanied by increased economic importance in several countries, including Brazil. However, spoilage of mini tomatoes by phytopathogenic agents is still common and is deemed a challenge in the cultivation of this fruit. Tomato cultivation can be carried out by either the conventional method or by organic farming. The former method uses large quantities of pesticides and chemical compounds which are highly toxic and which favor the emergence of resistant phytophathogenic species, thus requiring the use of increasing quantities of these products. In contrast, organic farming exclusively relies on the use of natural, environmentally-friendly preservatives. Organic food products have gained in popularity as consumers are increasingly aware of the toxicity that pesticides can cause to human and environmental health. A great disadvantage in organic farming is the recurrence of food spoilage by phytopathogenic microorganisms. Essential oils (EO) are natural compounds produced by plants and which are characterized by antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This project initially screened 25 non-organic EOs for their fungicidal properties, including cinnamon oil extracted from Cinnamomum cassia. This compound inhibited the in vitro growth of the reference filamentous fungus A. nidulans and of the food spoilage fungi Trichoderma atroviride, Nectria haematococca and Penicillium paneum in MIC (minimal inhibitory concentration) assays at a concentration of 0.03% v/v. The growth inhibition of A. nidulans was observed when applying organically produced cinnamon oil from C. cassia at a concentration of 0.015%. These initial results therefore suggest that the use of natural antimicrobial agents in combating the growth of foodborne plant pathogenic fungi are highly promising, with decreased hazards from human and environmental health and great application potential, representing a particularly interesting niche in the business market. The current project aims to characterize the fungicidal effect of the EO from C. cassia during the infection of organic mini tomatoes by filamentous fungi and to develop an innovative and low cost method for applying this EO as an organic preservative during the cultivation of mini tomatoes. Furthermore, as many fungal species are recurrent in different food products, the developed product can also be potentially used for the conservation of other vegetables and also non-organic farming. (AU)