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Encapsulate health-promoting bacteria for delayed release.

Encapsulated materials can be protected from moisture, heat or other extreme conditions, thus enhancing their stability. A wide variety of nutraceutical ingredients may need protective encapsulation systems to enhance their stability or permit the timed release of these ingredients.

Many techniques can be used for encapsulating materials. The most common in the food industry is the spray-drying process. Various methods are used to release materials from the capsules. The technique most often used for foods is solvent-activated release. But high production costs and the lack of food-grade materials limit many food encapsulation processes. Scientists at VTT Biotechnology and Food Research (P.O. Box 1500, FIN-02044 VTT, Finland) have been focusing on the development of starch-based techniques for encapsulating food components. They have been using starch granules, specifically native, physically or enzymatically treated starch. They also used commercially available starch derivatives, such as dextrins, as shell materials.

The goal of investigators is to stabilize lactic acid bacteria and formulate new types of foods fortified with encapsulated health-promoting bacteria that are released upon reaching the human gut. They have performed experiments on the laboratory scale aimed toward encapsulating the bacteria. They tell us they've obtained promising results concerning shelf life stability and viability in vitro.

In the past we told you how flavors are among the compounds that could be encapsulated in beads of starch developed by researchers at USDA/ARS (Cereal Product Utilization Research, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, CA 94710). The compounds could easily be released when the starch contacts water, such as when a soup mix is added to boiling water. These beads, called microcellular foam, are rigid white spheres each less than 2 microns in diameter--about the size of a grain of salt.

Flavors adhere to the beads through their tiny pores, and are released when the starch touches moisture and dissolves. Starch already is used to encapsulate flavors. But the ARS technique doesn't require heating the mixture, which can cause a loss of flavors.

Further information. At VTT: Pirkko Forssell; phone: +358-9-456 5212; fax: +358-9-455 2103; email:
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:May 1, 2003
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