Sweet secret to stopping mold

When it comes to keeping your favorite loaf of bread from turning green, scientists in Spain appear to have found the best thing since, well, sliced bread – a wax-paper wrapper infused with cinnamon oil.

It falls under the heading of “active packaging,” an approach to stalling spoilage that tries to avoid preservatives in the bread itself or the use of ultraviolet light to try to kill off the fungus that form mold. The team from the University of Zaragoza had previously experimented with clove and oregano oils – and it worked with one form of wax paper. This time around, the team focused on cinnamon oil and with a different form of the waxed wrapper.

The main component of the oil, cinnamal­dehyde, has proven effective as a fungicide and insecticide, and can help fight corrosion in steel. The Spanish team also has shown it to be effective against several types of bread-busting fungus. So they fortified the oil with additional cinnamaldehyde, incorporated it into the waxed paper, and used the paper to cover petri dishes containing the fungus. The paper inhibited fungus growth through the vapor the paper gave off. Among other things, this experiment showed that cinnamaldehyde could retain its properties after passing through the heat of wax-paper manufacture. When the team used the paper with sliced bread, they found that after three days at 77 degrees F., bread in the treated packaging had between 10 and 20 percent of the fungus colonies that bread in untreated wrapping showed. And the treated packaging didn’t need to touch the bread in order for the cinnamaldehyde to be effective.

The results appear in the current issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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