Essential oils as natural food antimicrobial agents: a review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(10):1320-3. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2012.692127.


Food-borne illnesses pose a real scourge in the present scenario as the consumerism of packaged food has increased to a great extend. Pathogens entering the packaged foods may survive longer, which needs a check. Antimicrobial agents either alone or in combination are added to the food or packaging materials for this purpose. Exploiting the antimicrobial property, essential oils are considered as a "natural" remedy to this problem other than its flavoring property instead of using synthetic agents. The essential oils are well known for its antibacterial, antiviral, antimycotic, antiparasitic, and antioxidant properties due to the presence of phenolic functional group. Gram-positive organisms are found more susceptible to the action of the essential oils. Essential oils improve the shelf-life of packaged products, control the microbial growth, and unriddle the consumer concerns regarding the use of chemical preservatives. This review is intended to provide an overview of the essential oils and their role as natural antimicrobial agents in the food industry.

Keywords: Essential oils; antimicrobial property; natural; packaging; pathogens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / analysis
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Food Contamination / prevention & control*
  • Food Industry / methods*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Food Preservatives / chemistry
  • Food Preservatives / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Oils, Volatile / analysis
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Food Preservatives
  • Oils, Volatile