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Keeping food fresh with bamboo.

Keeping food fresh with bamboo

In the name of "natural," Japanese researchers have searched the chemical repertoire of another common plant, bamboo, and have found one component that might work as a preservative for foods and cosmetics. Atsuyoshi Nishina, a chemist with Nippon Oilb and Fats Co., Ltd., in Tokyo, and four colleagues report in the February JOURNAL OF AGRICULTURAL AND FOOD CHEMISTRY that the bamboo extract inhibits bacterial growth. Asian cooks use bamboo and bamboo grass as tableware and for wrapping meat, sushi and candy. But until now, scientists had not thoroughly investigated the plant's potential as a preservative.

The chemists first pulverized bamboo bark and dissolved the bark powder in an alcohol mixture. Then they isolated four extracts from the liquid. They discovered that the extracts inhibited gram-positive bacteria, in particular a Staphylococcus species.

Food scientists say that using bamboo or its extract as a preservative holds special appeal. "The industry is wanting to not use any preservatives, and if they do have to add them, they want to use them from natural sources," explains Larry Beuchat of the University of Georgia in Griffin. "If it comes from plant material, they can claim these are natural."

The new work on bamboo is just the first step, adds P. Michael Davidson, a food microbiologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Researchers still need to show that the extract kills bacteria in foods and cosmetics under natural conditions and that it is not toxic to people.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 23, 1991
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