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Oregano and Eucalyptus Oil Effective Against Food-Spoilage Fungi

Oregano Eucalyptus

Microbiologists have successfully demonstrated anti-fungal action of essential oil of oregano and eucalyptus vapors against a range of fungi known to cause food spoilage.

In studies, the oils have been demonstrated to be effective against the fungi Botrytis cinerea, Fusarium sp. and Colletotrichum sp. These are filamentous fungi or ‘molds’. Such molds grow in filaments, forming a compact mass which is visible on the surface of foods as `mold growth’. Molds form spores. When these are dry they float in air currents until they find suitable conditions to grow.

These fungi cause major damage to such fruits and vegetables as strawberry, raspberry, mango, papaya, tomatoes and zucchini. In some cases, fungal infection can lead to major economic losses. There are also, in some cases, risks to human health through the release of poisons called mycotoxins.

The outcome of the work has led to a recommendation that anti-fungal compounds prepared from the oils be added to packaged fruits. The key is to add the agent to the packaging and enable a controlled release of vapor over time. This will enable the shelf-life of fruits to be extended. The term for this type of packaging is “active packing”, with reference to the controlled release functionality. The added agents do not come into direct contact with the fruit or vegetables, but instead infuse a vapor into the air.

Tests on the safety of bio-packaging have been conducted and there are no toxicity risks. Further studies are on-going to see if other fruits and vegetables can be protected and whether the oils are effective against other types of fungi.

The study was led by Dr. Andrea Trejo and it was carried out at the National University of Mexico. The results have yet to be published in a peer review journal.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.