Essential oils are natural antimicrobials that have the potential to provide a safer alternative to synthetic antimicrobials currently used in the food industry. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of essential oils from white wormwood, rose-scented geranium and bay laurel against Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli O157:H7 on fresh produce and to examine consumer acceptability of fresh produce treated with these essential oils. Our results showed that essential oil derived from rose-scented geranium exhibited the most effective antimicrobial activity at the same and similar minimum inhibition concentration levels (0.4%, v/v and 0.4% and 0.5%, v/v) respectively against Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli O157:H7. All three essential oils showed antioxidant properties, with the highest activity occurring in bay laurel essential oil. In a sensory test, tomatoes, cantaloupe and spinach sprayed with 0.4% rose-scented geranium essential oil received higher scores by panelists. In conclusion, rose-scented geranium essential oil could be developed into a natural antimicrobial to prevent contamination of Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in fresh produce, plus this oil would provide additional health benefits due to the antioxidant properties of its residue.
Keywords: antibacterial activities; antioxidant properties; bay laurel; rose geranium; white wormwood.