In recent years, 'natural antimicrobial agents' have increasingly been considered by food microbiologists as potential preservatives for food products. These agents may be associated with immune systems and have been examined in mammals, insects and amphibians. As pointed out by Board (1995), an agent active against prokaryotic but not mammalian cells is of obvious interest. Although Board (1995) was discussing natural antimicrobials from animals as potential food preservatives, it is clear that their possible use in other areas should also be investigated.
Likewise, the potential of natural food ingredients for the inhibition of growth of microorganisms has been investigated (Beales, 2002). Such ingredients include plant extracts, essential oils (covered in greater depth in section 17.11), citrus fruits such as grapefruit peel extracts (Negi & Jayaprakasha, 2001) and honey, shown to be active against Gram-positive cocci (Cooper et al., 2002).
Bacteria such as lactic acid bacteria produce peptides which have been shown to have antimicrobial activity. These peptides are termed bacteriocins. Cleveland et al., (2001) has reviewed the bacteriocins produced by lactic acid bacteria such as Nisin and Pediocin and has shown them to be safe and have potential as natural food preservatives. Whilst these agents themselves are not new, consumer focus is increasingly moving towards 'natural' or 'naturally produced' food additives. Further information about their antimicrobial spectrum, mode of action and physiochemical properties can be found in Ennahar et al., (1999), Nes and Holo
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