Pasta is more than a food; it is an element of union shared throughout Italy. It is an integral part of life, of popular culture of all Italians.
There are more than 300 specific forms of Pasta, known by some 1,300 names. The microbial stability of fresh Pasta depends on heat treatment, storage temperature, proper preservatives, and atmosphere packaging.
Now, Italian researchers have devised a new process for extending the shelf life of fresh Pasta by 30 days. They used a novel packaging process involving bioprotective probiotic cultures in the dough.
Today, most fresh Pasta sold in supermarkets is made using an industrial procedure that includes heat-treating the food, essentially the equivalent of pasteurization for Pasta. When the Pasta is finished cooking, it is placed in a type known as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), which entails taking the oxygen out of a plastic film box and replacing it with other gases.
If kept refrigerated, fresh Pasta has a shelf life of between 30 and 90 days. However, many things might go wrong and harm the product’s quality or safety. Under the correct circumstances, such as excessive moisture, some bacteria may survive heat treatment and continue to proliferate.
To assist preserve freshness, chemical preservatives are occasionally utilized. However, the choices available to extend the shelf life of fresh Pasta are restricted for consumers who seek natural, “clean label” products without artificial or synthetic ingredients.
An innovative “clean-label” technique to reduce spoilage problems was created by scientists from the National Research Council (CNR), the largest public research organization in Italy, in partnership with the University of Bari Aldo Moro, the private chemical laboratory, Food Safety Lab. They first altered the combination of plastic sheets and MAP gases used in the packaging to manage microbial growth and impermeability better. To stop the growth of bacteria, scientists introduced a multi-strain probiotic combination.
The novel approach was tested using a short, thin, twisted pasta called trofie. One batch of fresh Pasta was produced and packaged according to standard procedures. A second set was produced conventionally and kept in the test MAP. A third batch of fresh trofie was mixed with the bioprotective probiotic strains and put into the test container.
Scientists then waited for a while. After a few months, they discovered that the trofie Pasta treated with antimicrobial bioprotective probiotics in the experimental MAP had the best shelf life of the three experiments. They used high-tech techniques like gene sequencing to identify microbial compositions and mass spectrometry to profile volatile organic compounds.
Dr. Francesca De Leo, a researcher with the Institute of Biomembrane, Bioenergetics and Molecular Biotechnologies at the CNR, said, “The results demonstrate that the MAP, together with a spray-dried probiotic bioprotective cultures, acted in a synergistic way to control the microbial spoilage of fresh pasta during refrigerated storage.”
“The technique developed by her team could be introduced at the industrial level, adding 30 days of shelf life compared to conventional products.”
“From the consumer’s standpoint, a definite advantage of this product is the long shelf life and ease of storage. This can be particularly important considering that consumers tend more and more to reduce the frequency of their food purchases, and consequently store as much as possible at home.”
“The value of the research extends beyond finding a better way to store Pasta longer, she added, by helping reduce food waste. The World Food Programme estimates that about a third of all food produced yearly is squandered or lost before it can be consumed.”
“Food waste and loss greatly influence the ecological and environmental sustainability of the food system. Adopting innovative technological solutions for food waste prevention, such as the one outlined in this study, can help offset these problems if companies are willing to accept the challenge and innovate.”