Antimicrobial Compounds

Food antimicrobials are chemical compounds added to or present in foods for the purpose of retarding microbial growth or killing microorganisms. The major targets for antimicrobials are bacteria, molds, and yeasts that are either pathogenic or cause spoilage of foods. The effectiveness of food antimicrobials against viruses and parasites carried by foods is less well characterized. Food antimicrobials are sometimes referred to as food preservatives; however, the latter include food additives that are antimicrobials, antibrowning agents, and antioxidants. Under normal use conditions, food antimicrobials are bacteriostatic or fungistatic rather than bactericidal or fungicidal. The former indicates inhibition of growth of cells while the latter indicates killing of a population. Bacteriostasis is often reversible. Because food antimicrobials are generally static in nature, they will not preserve a food indefinitely. Depending on storage conditions, the food product eventually spoils or becomes hazardous. In addition, food antimicrobials are normally not capable of concealing spoilage of a food product. Rather, the food remains wholesome during its extended shelf life. Food antimicrobials are often used in combination with other food preservation procedures such as heat or refrigeration.

The effectiveness of food antimicrobials depends on many factors, including those related to the target microorganisms, characteristics of the food product, the storage environment, and processing of the food (1). Microbial factors that affect antimicrobial activity include inherent re-

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Austin R. Long Steven A. Barker Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Vegetarian Food and Cooking

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