Seaweed ingredients may improve quality and safety of foods

Posted on July 21, 2011 by

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By Nathan Gray

Natural seaweed extracts could not only offer health benefits to consumers, but also improve the quality and safety of food products, according to a new review.

Microalgae and seaweed extracts are rich in polyphenolic compounds “which have well documented antioxidant properties,” and may also have antimicrobial activities against major food spoilage and food pathogenic micro-organisms, says the review.

Published in Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, it outlines the potential uses of seaweed and seaweed extracts in the production of foods. The authors explore the potential for using the natural marine products as anti-microbial and anti-oxidation ingredients.

The authors, led by Dr. Nissreen Abu-Ghannam from Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland, explained that the trend towards the use of natural plant extracts in various food and beverages in the food industry “is gaining momentum.”

“Seaweed, being a rich source of structurally diverse bioactive compounds with valuable nutraceutical properties … Interest in the application of such compounds as natural antioxidants, antimicrobials or texturing agents in different food products is greater than ever,” said Abu-Ghannam and her colleagues.

“The addition of seaweeds or their extracts to food products will reduce the utilization of chemical preservatives, which will fulfil the industry as well as consumer demands for ‘green’ products,” they added.

Natural additives

Abu-Ghannam and her co-workers noted that research has suggested a potential for the application of seaweed extracts against lipid oxidation in foods. However, they noted that it is also important to see the efficacy of these extracts in complex foods.

“Considering the extensive data that is available on the antimicrobial potential of seaweed extracts against several pathogenic and spoilage micro-organisms, it will be interesting to review how effective the extracts have been when added to actual food products,” they said.

Review details

“Seaweeds are getting some serious consideration for nutritional enrichment of meat, bakery and pasta products,” noted the authors.

However, they said that whilst there is ‘immense literature’ available on the antimicrobial properties of seaweeds in vitro, there are very few studies available regarding their actual use in a food product.

Polysaccharides such as carrageenans and alginates, isolated from seaweeds, have also found extensive use in the food industry as a source of edible packaging material for ready to eat products, noted the review.

Abu-Ghannam and her team added that seaweed are a rich in dietary minerals specially sodium, potassium, iodine and fibres.

“Thus, there is an opportunity for the development of food products with low sodium content and high content of other minerals,” they said.

“Another potential area where the use of seaweed is gaining importance is regarding their addition for improving the textural properties of food products,” said Abu-Ghannam and her colleagues, adding that seaweeds are also “a rich source of dietary iodine and fibres which can also play a big part in enhancing the quality of food.”

Source: Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies

Posted in: Family safety