About this Research Topic
The global demand for safe and high-quality food products together with the negative consumer perceptions of synthetic chemicals and ultra-processed foods, has encouraged researchers and producers to explore the use of natural bioactive compounds in food preservation and safety. These may be used to inactivate or inhibit foodborne pathogens and spoilage microorganisms or introduced as antioxidant agents.
Numerous studies have been conducted to characterize and isolate bioactive compounds either from plants, by-products, animals or microorganisms, which may present biological functions such as antimicrobials or antioxidants agents. Research has been carried out to elucidate the mechanisms behind the antimicrobial activity of natural compounds against pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms (namely Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella enterica, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas spp., Norovirus, Hepatitis A virus, Aspergillus spp., Penicillium spp., parasites and fungi amongst others). However, the biological activity of these compounds may also be influenced by food components, temperature, pH, water activity, packaging and processing methods, highlighting the challenge of their application in food matrices and environment, and the need of further studies exploring this.
In fact, natural bioactive compounds can be naturally present in food or can be introduced into the formulation of food products (namely to perishable ones), incorporated into edible coatings, food packaging materials, contact surfaces or along the processing environment with the aim to ensure food safety and improve shelf life. The application of these compounds may be accomplished alone or in combination with already existing preservatives or even processing methods for the development of a food preservation system, providing mechanisms to ensure food safety. The bioactive properties of natural compounds may act against microorganisms that are present throughout the food chain and could be responsible for foodborne illness and food spoilage. These microorganisms may pose a public health problem but may also lead to potential economic losses due to modifications in food quality properties of food.
Despite the promising results of research in this field, the potential industrial application of natural compounds still depends on further investigation exploring: a) their bioactive properties, namely in the presence of food matrices; b) their efficacy and safety; c) the promotion of the protection of active compounds; d) the scale-up of their production; e) the impact of their bioactive activity on the microbiota and sensory characteristics of the food product; and f) the development of the technology enabling its application.
The aim of this Research Topic is therefore to address and explore the use of natural compounds in food quality preservation and food safety. Considering their role in the inhibition of pathogenic or spoilage bacteria, fungi and viruses; but also, toxin-production; and their role in the maintenance of food properties. This Research Topic welcomes original research, case reports and reviews, covering, but not limited to, the following sub-themes:
1. Natural compounds from animal, plants or microbial sources.
2. Naturally occurring preservatives in food products.
3. Natural compounds involved in the inhibition, inactivation and/or virulence attenuation of foodborne pathogens.
4. Novel systems of applications of natural compounds to food products.
5. Combination of natural compounds with existing preservatives or processing systems for food safety and preservation.
6. The multifunctionality of natural food additives.
Keywords: Natural Bioactive Compounds, Food Safety, Preservation, Microorganisms, Antioxidant Agents
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