Is Turmeric the Future of Food Safety?

A research team in southern Illinois is working to harness the antimicrobial properties of turmeric

Adding spices can inhibit the growth of harmful microbes.

A research team at Southern Illinois University has found a way to employ the antimicrobial properties of turmeric without making foods taste like turmeric, reports Grist. Using spices to inhibit the growth of harmful microbes is nothing new. In fact, a study from Cornell has shown that the prevalence of spicier foods in equatorial cultures is no coincidence but in fact affected by the warm climate, which leads to faster food spoilage.

The research team at Southern Illinois University discovered how to coat glass and metal with curcumin, the main antibacterial chemical in turmeric. They embedded the curcumin into nanocapsules, which prevents it from flavoring foods. This technology could be applied to coat knives, countertops, and the insides of cans, “to provide a new line of defense against food-borne illnesses,” Grist writes.

Ruplal Choudhary, a food and bioprocess engineer and part of the research team at Southern Illinois University, thinks the technology could be used to make fresh produce safer. He says, “Where I grew up, our house was surrounded by gardens. My father never liked to eat produce that came from the store, especially if it was harvested early and ripened in transit or at the store – he said it had no taste. We know now fresher foods are also higher in antioxidants and nutritive value. My goal is to find practical ways to use this technology to preserve food freshness as well as to create antimicrobial surfaces.”

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