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Argentine scientists develop “microcapsules” to prevent peanut contamination

Before being distributed and exported, stored peanuts can suffer from the attack of fungi and other pathogens.

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Researchers from the National University of Rio Cuarto and CONICET proved that the strategy can prevent different pathogens from affecting the quality and taste of that product stored for long periods of time.

Before being distributed and exported, stored peanuts can suffer the attack of fungi and other pathogens, thereby losing its quality and being a vehicle for toxins that are hazardous to human health.

Now, scientists from the National University of Rio Cuarto (UNRC) and CONICET developed microcapsules filled with compounds that protect this food from all these adversities.

“ Our strategy could be applied to peanuts intended for export that is stored for long periods of time. In this way, the combination of good hygiene practices with the storage treated with our microcapsules could guarantee an innocuous peanut of good quality and without changes in its sensory properties,” the first author of the study, Dr. Daiana García, member of the Laboratory of Ecology, told the Agency Cyta-leloir. Microbial directed by Dr. Miriam Etcheverry in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology of the Faculty of Exact Physico-Chemical and Natural Sciences of the UNRC.

As revealed by the journal 'International Journal of Food Microbiology', Etcheverry, García and a team of colleagues developed microcapsules made with harmless materials such as tasteless gelatin and gum arabic. And inside they incorporated a food-grade antioxidant, hydroxybutylanisol or BHA, for its acronym in English.

This formulation was then applied on a large scale in two peanut collecting companies in the province of Córdoba, in the so-called “core manisera zone” of Argentina. It was found that it protected BHA from oxidation by contact with environmental factors during the five months of storage. And that managed to reduce between 15 and 30% the contamination by yeasts and fungi Cladosporium, Penicillium, Fusarium, Alternaria and Aspergillus.

As an additional advantage, scientists did not detect certain carcinogenic contaminants produced by fungi, aflatoxins, in treated peanut samples.

The analysis also revealed that the taste of peanut kernels was not affected by the formulation used and insect damage was always less than 3%. It also did not affect the acidity and sensory properties of the fruit. “These results show that the formulation of BHA could be transferred to the productive sector,” García said.

Córdoba produces more than 90 per cent of peanuts nationally and, of that figure, more than 90 per cent is also exported to major world markets. In 2015, the sector generated a foreign exchange income of US$800 million, according to data provided by the Argentine Chamber of Peaní (CAM).

Natalia Girardi, María Alejandra Passone and Andrea Nesci, also members of Etcheverry's laboratory, also participated in the advance.

Source: Dicyt

Publication Date: 11/08/2019

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