A multidisciplinary research group from the Department of Food and Drug Sciences of the University of Parma has recently filed a research patent for industrial invention, 'Production of antimicrobials from plant waste'. Related to the preparation of an extract with antimicrobial activity starting from by-products of the fruit and vegetable supply chain. (1)
Professor Camilla Lazzi - Associate Professor in Agricultural Microbiology of the Department of Food and Drug Sciences of the University of Parma - illustrates the project.
Antimicrobials from plant waste, what is it?
This is a new line of research that allows the enhancement of waste materials for the production of innovative compounds with high added value. Which can be used in various industrial fields (food, feed, chemical and pharmaceutical). The main players are GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) microorganisms which, with their metabolic activity, convert low value substrates producing molecules of commercial interest.
What result have you achieved and what applications can derive from it?
We have managed to patent a process that is based on fermentation in solid state, through the use of lactic bacteria, of by-products of tomato, melon and carrot processing. As well as on the subsequent extraction phase. The product obtained showed a relevant antibacterial activity - in vitro and in situ (in food) - against the most common food pathogens, such as Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Bacillus cereus, Salmonella and against alterative microflores, showing better performance than some traditional preservatives.
The new product, which does not contain synthetic molecules, can be used as an ingredient to increase the shelf life of foods. Given the stability of the antibacterial extract at high temperatures, it will also be possible to evaluate its use in transformation processes in association with thermal or non-thermal stabilization technologies, in order to reduce time, costs and negative impacts on the organoleptic and nutritional quality of the products.
How was this work born?
At the Food Microbiology Laboratory of the University of Parma there is a microbial collection, over 4000 strains, which represents a heritage of biodiversity to be protected and enhanced. Phenotypic diversity is a resource for differentiating and innovating in the food sector but it can also be used for fermentation processes aimed at the production and recovery of molecules of interest.
The project was born about three years ago as part of a broader research topic that concerns, on the one hand, the production of new fermented fruit and vegetable-based drinks, and on the other, the production of molecules of commercial interest through the enhancement of fruit and vegetable by-products for an ever greater bio-sustainability of the entire agri-food chain.
We believe that research aimed at these issues can have a strong industrial impact, to develop new products currently absent on the market (processing companies), new clean label ingredients (ingredient companies). And also to identify new application potentials of bacterial strains that will see their field of application and the market of interest expand (starter companies).
In your opinion, what are the reasons for this result?
Enthusiasm and a lot of passion for one's work, team working and integration of the different skills that are present within the Department. Last but not least, the contribution of the Cariparma Foundation which allowed the start of this new line of research.
(1) Patent filing no. 102019000006815, 14.5.19. The research group is composed of Prof. Camilla Lazzi, Prof. Valentina Bernini, Prof. Erasmo Neviani, Prof. Gianni Galaverna, Dr. Martina Cirlini, Dr. Annalisa Ricci, Dr. Antonietta Maoloni, Dr. Luca Calani and Mrs. Silvia Zanetti.