The antifungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant activity of four commercial essential oils (EOs) (thyme, clove, rosemary, and tea tree) from Romanian production were studied in order to assess them as bioactive compounds for active food packaging applications. The chemical composition of the oils was determined with the Folin-Ciocâlteu method and gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry and flame ionization detectors, and it was found that they respect the AFNOR/ISO standard limits. The EOs were tested against three food spoilage fungi-Fusarium graminearum, Penicillium corylophilum, and Aspergillus brasiliensis-and three potential pathogenic food bacteria-Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Listeria monocytogenes-using the disc diffusion method. It was found that the EOs of thyme, clove, and tea tree can be used as antimicrobial agents against the tested fungi and bacteria, thyme having the highest inhibitory effect. Concerning antioxidant activity determined by 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and 2,2'-azino-bis 3-ethylbenzthiazoline-6-sulfonic acid (ABTS) methods, it has been established that the clove oil exhibits the highest activity because of its high phenolic content. Promising results were obtained by their incorporation into chitosan emulsions and films, which show potential for food packaging. Therefore, these essential oils could be suitable alternatives to chemical additives, satisfying the consumer demand for naturally preserved food products ensuring its safety.
Keywords: antifungal; antimicrobial; antioxidant; essential oils; spoilage fungi.