Antimicrobial activity of Olea europaea Linné extracts and their applicability as natural food preservative agents

Int J Food Microbiol. 2017 Jun 19:251:48-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2017.03.019. Epub 2017 Mar 28.


The antimicrobial activity of phenolic compounds from Olea (O.) europaea Linné (L.) is part of the scientific discussion regarding the use of natural plant extracts as alternative food preservative agents. Although, the basic knowledge on the antimicrobial potential of certain molecules such as oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol or elenolic acid derivatives is given, there is still little information regarding their applicability for food preservation. This might be primarily due to the lack of information regarding the full antimicrobial spectrum of the compounds, their synergisms in natural or artificial combinations and their interaction with food ingredients. The present review accumulates available literature from the past 40 years, investigating the antimicrobial activity of O. europaea L. derived extracts and compounds in vitro and in food matrices, in order to evaluate their food applicability. In summary, defined extracts from olive fruit or leaves, containing the strongest antimicrobial compounds hydroxytyrosol, oleacein or oleacanthal in considerable concentrations, appear to be suitable for food preservation. Nonetheless there is still need for consequent research on the compounds activity in food matrices, their effect on the natural microbiota of certain foods and their influence on the sensorial properties of the targeted products.

Keywords: Antimicrobial susceptibility; Elenolic acid; Food preservation; Hydroxytyrosol; Olea europaea; Oleuropein.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aldehydes / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Food Preservatives / pharmacology*
  • Fruit / metabolism
  • Iridoid Glucosides
  • Iridoids / pharmacology*
  • Olea / metabolism
  • Phenols / pharmacology*
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Pyrans / pharmacology*


  • Aldehydes
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Food Preservatives
  • Iridoid Glucosides
  • Iridoids
  • Phenols
  • Plant Extracts
  • Pyrans
  • oleacein
  • 3,4-dihydroxyphenylethanol
  • oleuropein
  • elenolic acid
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol