A recent article about a new, carefully controlled study in the UK on sodium benzoate (a common food preservative) and food colourings in foods showed that some artificial additives increase hyperactivity and decrease attention span in a wide range of children, not just those for whom over-activity has been diagnosed as a learning problem.
Fortunately, out of Australia come several variants of a natural food flavour made from extracts of culinary herbs. The mixes are proprietary blends made by Vic Cherikoff Food Services , branded as Herbal-Active and HerBev, both serious contenders to replace synthetic chemical (and other natural) preservatives in a wide range of foods, beverages and cosmetics.
Herbal-Active also has processing applications when added to water in which fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, herbs and other foods can be dipped (replacing chlorinated water) as it drops the microbial loads down to near zero. Meats processed this way can be used for sausages or burgers for extended shelf-life.
Berries can last up to 10 days longer and salads, herbs and vegetables will be rendered food safe as they out-last untreated foods. Herbal-Active also has potential in the cut flower industry and wherever moulds increase wastage from spoilage.
There are a number of beverage companies now using HerBev in a wide range of drink applications, from cold formulated fruit and nutraceutical blends to low pH, low particulate, pasteurized drinks to replace benzoates, sorbates and metabisulphite and it ensures a long ambient shelf life.
HerBev may even play a role in expanding the market for wine which is now limited to consumers who are insensitive to sulphur dioxide but whether the antioxidants in HerBev are sufficiently high is yet to be proven.
“The smart thing about my natural flavors is that they use the synergistic activity gained when combining multiple compounds, just like the common use of sodium benzoate in combination with potassium sorbate. Furthermore, the addition rates are so low that the “flavors” are tasteless in most applications.
"HerBev, for example, is ideal for light flavored fruit juice drinks all the way to colas, ginger beer and other full flavored beverages” states Vic Cherikoff, the scientist behind the new natural preservative.
Vic Cherikoff Food Services stresses that the proprietary blends are not additives but natural flavours which come from traditional Australian foods and so the regulators do not treat them as chemical entities but recognise them as foods. This means that any product flavoured with these mixes only needs to state natural flavors on the label or if used as a manufacturing aid then often no mention is necessary at all.
The benefits are that the claim of preservative free can be made; product shelf life can be significantly extended; and packaging with a lower carbon footprint can be used.