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INRS receives grant to research natural antimacrobials


April 26, 2021
By Bakers Journal


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INRS Professor Monique Lacroix evaluates the antimicrobial and antioxidant potential of various and effective products that are less harmful to health. Photo Credit: Christian Fleury Image courtesy of CNW Group/Institut National de la recherche scientifique (INRS)

The food industry requires controlling microbes, such as bacteria or viruses, which often means adding synthetic chemicals.  Demand for natural antimicrobial products is growing.

What are the antimicrobial effects of stabilized natural products to ensure food safety and quality? The new research chair directed by Professor Monique Lacroix of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) is looking into stabilized natural products to ensure food safety.

INRS was granted $487,590 under the Partnership Program for Innovation in Agriculture, to further develop natural solutions. It is funded by the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

For the past 26 years, Professor Monique Lacroix’s laboratories have been evaluating the antimicrobial and antioxidant potential of various  products that are less harmful to health, namely products derived from natural extracts including essential oils, fruits, spices and, more recently, silver nanoparticles.

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To date, the challenge in using natural antimicrobial extracts has been their instability. “Some of the extracts oxidize quickly or are volatile. There is also variability in their composition and their interactions with the different nutrients in foods,” explained Professor Lacroix. These limitations where the safety should be assured.

“In food systems, it is important to consider all the parameters affecting yields and to develop standardized and stabilized processes whose components act in synergy,” she emphasized. “This funding will make it possible to develop different stabilization methods, such as food coating via immobilization in edible polymers. We can also think of nanoemulsion, encapsulation in microbeads, liposomes or biodegradable nanocomposite packaging films or developed from natural polymers. ”

The project is also evaluating the possible interactions between food composition, processing and storage conditions, and the resulting antimicrobial activity. The new chair will explore antimicrobial properties of natural extracts, such as essential oils, or fruit extracts.

Bacteriocins produced by probiotic bacteria and peptides generated during the fermentation of lactic bacteria, will also be studied. It will thus be possible to optimize the fermentation conditions for the production of antimicrobial bacteriocins.

Professor Lacroix will collaborate with Professor Annie Castonguay and Professor Steven Laplante for the chemical analysis of the composition of the different extracts. The team aims for a better understanding of the relationships between the structure and the antimicrobial activity of the extracts. The development of chemometric predictive models (classification of extracts) will provide the necessary information for the development of standardized antimicrobial formulations.