ITALY – Researchers in Italy have developed a brand-new method for prolonging the shelf life of fresh pasta by 30 days using a novel packaging process that also involves applying bioprotective probiotic cultures to the dough.

The Frontiers in Microbiology journal featured their new fresh pasta preservation recipe.

Pasta is serious business in Italy, with reportedly more than 300 specific forms known by some 1,300 names. There is even a 55-year-old ‘pasta law’ that governs its production and manufacture. But that doesn’t mean the beloved food staple is shut off from innovation.

Today, the majority of fresh pasta sold in supermarkets is made using an industrial procedure that includes heat-treating the food, which is effectively pasta’s version of pasteurization.

When the pasta is finished cooking, it is placed in a type of packaging known as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), which entails taking the oxygen out of a plastic film box and replacing it with other gasses.

Fresh pasta has a shelf life of 30 to 90 days if refrigerated. However, a lot of things might go wrong and jeopardize the product’s quality and even safety.

Under a conducive environment, such as excessive moisture, some bacteria may survive heat treatment and flourish.

 To assist preserve freshness, chemical preservatives are occasionally utilized.

However, the choices available to extend the shelf life of fresh pasta are restricted to consumers who seek natural, “clean label” products without artificial or synthetic components.

An innovative “clean-label” technique to reduce spoiling issues was created by researchers from the National Research Council (CNR), the largest public research organization in Italy, in partnership with the University of Bari Aldo Moro, and the private chemical laboratory, Food Safety Lab.

To better manage microbial growth and impermeability, they first altered the combination of plastic films and MAP gasses used in the packaging.

To stop the growth of bacteria, the scientists then introduced a multi-strain probiotic combination.

The novel approach was then put to the test 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.

Using cutting-edge techniques like mass spectrometry to profile volatile organic compounds and gene sequencing to identify microbial compositions, they discovered that the trofie pasta treated with antimicrobial bioprotective probiotics in the experimental MAP had the best shelf life of the three experiments after a few months.

“The results demonstrate that the MAP, together with spray-dried probiotic bioprotective cultures, acted in a synergistic way to control the microbial spoilage of fresh pasta during refrigerated storage,” said Dr. Francesca De Leo, a researcher with the Institute of Biomembrane, Bioenergetics and Molecular Biotechnologies at the CNR.

Preventing food waste

According to De Leo, the method created by her team may be applied in the industrial setting and would extend the shelf life of conventional products by 30 days.

“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,” she said.

She emphasized that the study’s importance goes beyond figuring out how to keep pasta fresher longer because it also contributes to lowering food waste.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), a third of all food produced each year is lost or wasted before it can be eaten.

“Food waste and loss have a great influence on the ecological and environmental sustainability of the food system. 

“The adoption of 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,” De Leo noted.

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