Despite the widespread belief that citrus fruit extracts (CFEs) are microbiologically safe due to their acidity, limited bactericidal effect results in low applicability as antibacterial agent and outbreaks occurred by acid-adapted pathogens. Here, we examined the antibacterial effects of CFEs [lime (Citrus medica), lemon (Citrus limon), calamansi (Citrus microcarpa)] combined with essential oil components (EOCs; carvacrol and thymol) against non-acid-adapted/acid-adapted Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella Typhimurium, and Listeria monocytogenes under 22 °C for 5 min. CFEs (<20%) alone or small amounts of EOCs (2.0 mM; 0.032%) alone could not inactivate the target bacteria effectively. However, combined treatments exhibited marked synergy: CFE + EOCs eliminated all the bacteria (>6.9 log CFU/ml). Among the CFEs tested, the highest synergism was shown by calamansi, an exotic citrus fruit previously unrecognized as an antibacterial agent. Although acid-adaptation improved bacterial survival, calamansi (<20%) + EOCs (<0.032%) completely inactivated even the most resistant pathogen (E. coli O157:H7). Validation test also showed that all tested commercial juice products also eliminated acid-adapted pathogens when used with EOCs. Physicochemical analysis of tested CFEs (pH measurement and HPLC analysis of components) revealed that low pH and flavanone (hesperidin) did not contribute to the synergistic bactericidal effects. Rather, the high citric acid content is likely to contribute to the strong synergistic effect with EOCs by damaging susceptible bacterial membranes. Sensory scores for CFEs were not altered by addition of EOCs at concentrations up to 1.5 mM. This study provides new insight into the utility of CFEs with EOCs to improve not only the microbiological safety of food products containing CFEs but also their applicability as natural antibacterial complex.
- Citrus fruit extract
- Foodborne pathogen
- Synergistic antibacterial effect
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science