By Emily Caldwell
Ohio State News
Infusing prepared foods with an edible coating that contains green tea extract may lower consumers’ chances of catching the highly contagious norovirus by eating contaminated food, new research suggests.
Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, sickens an estimated 48 million people in the United States every year and causes about 3,000 deaths. It’s transmitted from person to person and through consumption of contaminated water and food.
Lots of things we consume contain what are known in the industry as edible films: They can enhance appearance, like wax that makes apples shiny; hold contents together, like plastic drug capsules; and prevent contents from seeping together by, for example, being placed between a prepared pie crust and the filling.
“In many cases, an edible film is in a product, but you are not aware of it,” said Melvin Pascall, professor of food science and technology at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and senior study author. “We don’t have to put that on the label since the material is edible. That’s another way in which we use packaging – and the consumer doesn’t have to know.”
Some edible films are also enriched with antimicrobial agents that can kill or slow the growth of organisms that cause illness, such as E. coli and mold.
In this new study led by Pascall, adding green tea extract to a film-forming substance created a safe-to-eat barrier that killed norovirus as well as two types of bacteria.
While most antimicrobial packaging advances to date have emphasized fighting bacteria, this finding holds promise for a newer area of research into the concept of using edible film to kill a virus, Pascall said.
“Norovirus is a tough virus to work with – it is a non-enveloped virus, which is the type more resistant to sanitizers and antimicrobial agents,” he said. “However, because it has public health concerns and has been implicated in a number of foodborne outbreaks, we wanted to look at the effects of green tea extract on norovirus.”
The study is published in the International Journal of Food Science.