(NaturalNews) Researchers at the University of Extremadura in Spain have found that the essential oils sage and rosemary could slow oxidative spoilage of meat better than synthetic antioxidants butylhydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylhydroxytoluene (BHT).
"The results of my research support the idea that new food ingredients from plant kingdom are of interest for the meat industry," lead author Mario Estvez. "Using "functional ingredients" such as those containing flavonoids are excellent options to enhance the nutritional and technological properties of a wide range of foods."
In the study, the researchers studied three pates, one with sage and rosemary oils, one with BHA and BHT, and one with no antioxidants, after they had been stored at 39 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 days.
After 30 days, the scientists analyzed the levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), thibarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS), and lipid-derived volatiles in the pates. The essential oil pate also showed a significantly reduced loss of PUFA levels compared to the synthetically preserved and control pates, and the essential oils also performed better in the inhibition of oxidative deterioration. No difference was observed after 90 days.
"Results from the present study agree with those obtained (previously), denoting even the possibility of replacing synthetic antioxidants such as BHT with natural extracts with antioxidant activity obtained from plants," wrote the authors in the January issue of LWT - Food Science and Technology (Lebensmittel-Wissenschaft und -Technologie). "Furthermore, the addition of plant essential oils greatly influences the aromatic profile of the products in which they are added since some volatile components of these essential oils are terpenes which might contribute to add specific aromatic notes."
While the study results suggest that natural alternatives to synthetic preservatives are viable, Estvez said some obstacles still remain.
"Regardless of the costs, the main challenges of using these substances on meat products are related to consumer's acceptability," he said. "It is essential to carry out experimental works to prove the effectiveness of these substances is every single product because their activity as antioxidants depends on a large number of factors, including the characteristics of the food."
The study comes at a time when plant-based alternatives to chemical preservatives are increasing in popularity, even to the point that the synthetic antioxidant market is in decline while the natural antioxidant market is growing, according to a 2003 report by Frost and Sullivan.
Mike Adams, consumer health advocate and author of "Grocery Warning", explained that turning to all-natural preservatives was more than a just a good idea.
"Replacing the toxic chemical additives currently used to preserve meat products with natural, plant-derived oils would help protect the population from cancer," he said. "The chemical additives currently being used to preserve common meat products are extremely toxic and known to aggressively promote cancer."