Essential oils as natural preservatives for bakery products: Understanding the mechanisms of action, recent findings, and applications

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(2):310-321. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2018.1525601. Epub 2018 Nov 15.


Bakery products, as an important part of a healthy diet, are characterized by their limited shelf-life. Microbiological spoilage of these products not only affects the quality characteristics and result in the economic loss but also threatens consumer's health. Incorporation of chemical preservatives, as one of the most conventional preserving techniques, lost its popularity due to the increasing consumer's health awareness. Therefore, the bakery industry is seeking alternatives to harmful antimicrobial agents that can be accepted by health-conscious customers. In this regard, essential oils have been previously used as either a part of product ingredient or a part of the packaging system. Therefore, the antimicrobial aspect of essential oils and their ability in delaying the microbiological spoilage of bakery products have been reviewed. Several types of essential oils, including thyme, cinnamon, oregano, and lemongrass, can inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms in bakery products, resulting in a product with extended shelf-life and enhanced safety. Research revealed that several bioactive compounds are involved in the antimicrobial activity of essential oils. However, some limitations, such as the possible negative effects of essential oils on sensory parameters, may limit their applications, especially in high concentrations. In this case, they can be used in combination with other preservation techniques such as using appropriate packaging materials. Further research regarding the commercial production of the bakery products formulated with essential oils is required in this area.

Keywords: Plant extracts; bioactive compounds; cereal based; fungal; natural antimicrobial; shelf-life; spoilage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Food Microbiology
  • Food Preservation*
  • Food Preservatives
  • Oils, Volatile*
  • Origanum*
  • Thymus Plant


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