BREAD that stays fresh for two weeks and is good for you because it contains a natural preservative could be on Irish shelves by the end of the year.
The revolutionary method of extending bread’s shelf life has been developed by food scientists at University College Cork (UCC).
The preservative has been patented and licensed to Puratos, a Belgium-based multinational food ingredients company that supplies baking and confectionery industries in more than 100 countries worldwide.
The shelf life of bread is only a few days before mould appears and, up to now, the challenge for bakers has been to extend this while reducing the amount of additives in bread products.
About 20% of all bread is thrown out due to shelf-life issues.
German scientist Prof Elke Arendt and her research team in the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at UCC, had been looking for natural ways to improve the shelf life of cereal products for the past 10 years.
“About five years ago I discovered this strain of lactic acid bacteria that imparts this freshness in bread and stops it from becoming mouldy,” she said.
Prof Arendt discovered that incorporating a lactic acid bacteria strain in bread not only produces a fine crumb texture but also improves the flavour, volume and nutritional value of the food as well.
Lactic acid bacteria would be best known for its role in the production of yoghurt and cheese. However, the strain is tasteless when added as an ingredient instead of a live culture.
The college is now working on applying the strain to other foods, including dairy products, malt beer and animal feed.
The research was funded by the Department of Agriculture and Food as well as Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Technology Development Fund.
UCC president Michael Murphy said the college was the first Irish university to develop a patient and licensing policy and continued to take the lead in developing the commercial potential of their research.
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