Testing Sterilization Methods on Spice Aromas and Cleanliness

Jenn Hoskins
10th March, 2024

Testing Sterilization Methods on Spice Aromas and Cleanliness

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Study at Egyptian Russian University found processing spices changes their scent compounds
  • Both autoclaving and γ-radiation effectively kill microbes, making spices safe to eat
  • Changes in aroma after processing could affect the flavor of food using these spices
In recent years, the use of herbal spices has become increasingly popular not only for their flavor enhancement in foods but also for their potential health benefits. However, the processing methods used to ensure the safety and longevity of these spices can alter their chemical composition and, consequently, their aroma, taste, and health properties. A study conducted by researchers at the Egyptian Russian University[1] has delved into how different processing methods—namely autoclaving and γ-radiation—affect the aroma profile and microbial contamination of four commonly used spices: bay leaf, black pepper, capsicum, and fennel. The aroma of a spice is a key factor in its desirability and is composed of a complex blend of volatile compounds. The study identified these compounds using a technique called HS-SPME/GC-MS, which is a way to capture the 'scent' molecules and analyze them. Each spice showed a unique profile with oxides, phenols, ethers, esters, ketones, alcohols, and hydrocarbons contributing to their distinct aromas. For example, oxides/phenol/ethers were found to be predominant in all the tested spices, accounting for a significant portion of the aroma compounds. Processing methods are essential to eliminate microbes that can spoil food or cause illness. Both autoclaving, which uses high-pressure steam, and γ-radiation, a type of irradiation, effectively reduced microbial counts in spices to below detectable levels, ensuring their safety for consumption. This finding is particularly relevant considering that consumers are often wary of food preservation methods[2], especially those involving radiation or 'waves'. Yet, this study shows that such methods can be effective without compromising safety. Interestingly, the study found that these processing methods can change the spices' aroma profiles. For instance, the level of cineole, a compound known for its eucalyptus-like scent, increased significantly in bay leaf after both autoclaving and γ-radiation. Similarly, monoterpene hydrocarbons in black pepper were enriched after autoclaving. These changes could potentially alter the flavor profile of these spices and consequently the dishes they are used in. The study's use of multivariate data analysis (MVA) revealed clear differences between the control (unprocessed) samples and those subjected to processing, highlighting the significant impact of these methods on the composition of spices. This kind of analysis helps researchers understand the complex relationships and variations among the different compounds. The findings of the Egyptian Russian University study build upon previous research that has explored the antibacterial properties of certain compounds found in spices[3] and their potential to inhibit enzymes like acetylcholinesterase, which is relevant to conditions such as dementia[4]. For example, the study's identification of cineole aligns with earlier research[3] that found a synergistic antibacterial effect when 1,8-cineole was combined with nisin against Staphylococcus aureus. This reinforces the idea that spices not only contribute to the taste and aroma of our food but also have health-promoting properties that can be harnessed in various ways. In conclusion, the study from the Egyptian Russian University provides valuable insights into how the processing of spices affects their chemical composition and microbial safety. By understanding these changes, the food industry can better preserve the quality and safety of spices, while potentially enhancing their health benefits. This research not only contributes to the scientific understanding of spice processing but also has practical implications for food safety and product development in the food industry.



Main Study

1) Comparison of autoclaving and γ-radiation impact on four spices aroma profiles and microbial load using HS-SPME GC-MS and chemometric tools.

Published 8th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Consumer Attitudes towards Food Preservation Methods.


3) Antibacterial interactions of pulegone and 1,8-cineole with monolaurin ornisin against Staphylococcus aureus.


4) Essential Oils from Spices Inhibit Cholinesterase Activity and Improve Behavioral Disorder in AlCl3 Induced Dementia.


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