There is presently global trend towards reducing chemical additives in foods, and food manufacturers are casting about for ingredients that will ensure the same level of food safety, but also enable them to make 'natural' claims and have simpler, shorter ingredients lists. Danisco's new offering, called MicroGARD 730, is being billed as the "next generation" of clean-label antimicrobial hurdles for prepared meals and selected meats. It has been seen to have broad antimicrobial activity, combating organisms like Lactobacilli, yeast, molds, and also pathogens like listeria monocytogenes. David Charest, Danisco director, food protection, North America, explained to FoodNavigator-USA.com that the new offering is produced using fermentation technology. The company selects bacteria strains, and introduces the organisms to a sugar substrate, be it dextrose or lactose. When the organisms ferment the sugars, they produce metabolites like organic acids and peptides that have antimicrobial properties. Charest said that the metabolites are the same as the bacteria would produce in nature, when competing with other organisms like themselves. "We take advantage of their natural protective mechanisms, and leverage that for whole fraction fermentates," he said. The metabolites are then pasturised and spray dried with a carrier. The result is a fermentate that the FDA has agreed may be labeled on finished food products as a cultured dextrose, rather than as all its different components. Danisco USA is launching MicroGARD 730 primarily to the North American market, and is drawing attention to the clean label benefits it can offer manufacturers, who can use it instead of chemical preservatives like benzoate. Other markets such as Latin America and Asia Pacific have similar regulations, so Danisco's global divisions are investigating potential use in those markets too. For now, however, a European launch is not on the cards since the regulatory framework would call for each of the organic acids and peptide to be individually labelled. This means that fermentates are not so widely used in Europe. Charest said MicroGARD 730 is suitable for use in a broad range of products in the refrigerated heat-and-eat category, including soups, mixed meals, deli salads, and side items like creamed spinach, mashed potato and squash. This category is seen as having considerable potential, as fresh, refrigerated products are generally regarded by consumers as healthier. The company has also looked at MicroGARD 730's use in meat-containing items to control listeria, and it has been seen to be effective. However under current USDA regulations any substance marketed as controlling listeria is not considered to be natural. The exception to this is substances that have been "grandfathered in" - that is, have a long history of use predating regulations - such as salt. When it comes to use of natural alternatives to chemical preservatives, Charest said one of the main challenges is making ingredients that work in particular applications. "Chemical preservatives have been around a long time, and have become cheap and effective." While they can be applied in a one-size-fit-all manner, with natural solutions there is a real need to understand the ingredient and each application on an individual basis. This means there is considerable scope for ingredients manufacturers to conduct R&D in this area. MicroGARD 730 joins Dansico's existing family of food protection products, which includes other fermentates under the MicroGARD trademark.