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Revolutionizing produce protection

Texas A&M Engineering

Dr. Mustafa Akbulut, professor of chemical engineering, teamed up with Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, professor of horticultural science to engineer longer-lasting, bacteria-free produce.  

According to recent research by Akbulut, the global fruit and vegetable market loses more than 50% of agricultural fruit production during various stages of produce handling and post-harvest treatments. 

Many fruits and vegetables already have a layer of food-grade wax applied for cosmetic reasons and to prevent loss. Akbulut’s research combines such wax with non-encapsulated cinnamon-bark essential oil in protein careers to enhance them with antibacterial properties.  

News about foodborne diseases and outbreaks causing people to fall sick appears frequently at a national level. Akbulut’s wax coating technology bolsters the safety of fresh produce and provides enhanced protection against bacteria and fungi.  

“I think that the impact of these wax coatings will have on the industry is very big because the industry is looking for new technologies,” Cisneros-Zevallos said. “This is one of those tools that we are developing that could actually help the industry face these challenges against human pathogens and spoilage organisms.”   

Nano-encapsulated essential oil makes it harder for bacteria to attach and survive on fruits or vegetables. The delayed release of the essential oil increases the half-life of active ingredients and fresh produce compared to its unencapsulated counterparts, according to the article. This technology is said to help inactivate the bacteria, thus extending the shelf-life. 

The chemicals used to produce this hybrid was and antibacterial agents that are FDA-approved.