Demand for products featuring ingredients perceived as natural has prompted some manufacturers of meat and poultry products to identify substances that may slow the progress of oxidation or act as an inhibitor to the growth of pathogens.

Some herbs and spices may assist with extending shelf life because of their ability to function as antioxidants. Rosemary extract, for example, is a concentrated source of carnosic acid, an antioxidant that slows the development of oxidative rancidity in raw and cooked meat. It may be dispersed in brine and injected into various meats or dispersed into a solution with other flavors and sprayed onto meats.

Several companies are investing in research to identify natural extracts that may have food safety applications. Naturex, Avignon, France, has expanded its portfolio of solutions for shelf life extension with a range of cherry-based antioxidants and curing enhancers for meat and poultry products.

The extracts feature organic acids that aid food preservation and the acerola cherry-derived ingredients open new opportunities for natural preservation solutions in the meat and poultry industry. Acerola Cherry 17, for example, offers natural oxygen-scavenging properties that protect meat pigments from oxidation, which means it may be used in all types of raw and cooked meat products to improve color stability. Acerola Cherry 17 also may be used as a curing accelerator in cured meats.

Naturex also has developed XtraBlend RA, an antioxidant that combines acerola with rosemary extract to create a blend that protects both color and flavor in meat products. The third ingredient in the new range is Acerola Cherry 36, which contains more naturally occurring vitamin C than other acerola powders available on the market, according to the company.

“There is big demand for natural ingredients in the meat and poultry industry that offer technical benefits, and Naturex’s R.&D. focus on acerola cherry has opened up a world of opportunities in food preservation,” said Baptiste Demur, business manager for Naturex, during the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and exposition, held this past June in New Orleans. “Our new cherry-based ingredients provide high levels of efficacy while allowing meat and poultry companies to achieve consumer-friendly labels. These optimized natural antioxidants and curing accelerators provide exciting and effective options that cover needs of the entire meat industry, in both the fresh and cured meat categories.”

This year’s I.F.T. featured several clean label solutions for meat and poultry processors. Corbion Purac, Lenexa, Kas., introduced two vinegar solutions to inhibit Listeria growth and extend shelf life at this year’s I.F.T. Verdad N8 and Verdad N9 were specifically developed to meet consumer demand for simpler ingredient statements while maintaining safety in fresh and R.-T.-E. meat products.

Both ingredients may be labeled as “vinegar” and are produced by the fermentation of corn sugar with selected food cultures. The ingredients complement the company’s existing vinegar portfolio for the meat industry, including the Verdad Powder N6.

The line of Verdad vinegars has been shown to control Listeria growth in cooked meat and extend shelf life in fresh and cooked meat. The new ingredients were developed in response to specific challenges. Verdad N8, for example, offers the balanced flavor that is often required in taste-sensitive products, while Verdad N9 is free of sodium and aids in the healthy positioning of some products.

“More consumers are paying close attention to labels and looking for natural ingredients,” said Simone Bouman, director of business development USA for Corbion Purac, during the I.F.T. “Guaranteeing adequate shelf life and safety for food can be particularly challenging for manufacturers who are seeking natural solutions. With that in mind, our team of scientists has developed two new natural solutions, which will allow processors to offer clean labels and improve product quality.”

Olive powder is also label friendly and has been shown to be effective in combatting E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and the University of Arizona at Tucson found that olive powder, an olive processing byproduct, can reduce the amount of E. coli in raw ground beef.

The finding was part of a research project examining the effects of various plant extracts, including olive powder, apple powder and onion powder, on potentially harmful microorganisms in ground beef. The research team found that of the naturally derived substances, olive powder was the most effective at improving ground-beef safety. The researchers have yet to determine what part of the olive compound was responsible for this function but the research is ongoing.