Determining Mechanisms of Action and Optimum Use of Polyphenols As Food Preservatives

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Graduate Office


Preservatives are crucial ingredients in a wide range of foods which are present in order to control growth of pathogenic and spoilage organisms and maintain product quality and shelf life. A wide range of chemicals are currently used in this context including organic acids, salts and various nitrite compounds. Some of these additives, for example sodium and potassium nitrite, have potential health concerns1, 2 and there is great interest in industry in exploring alternatives3 which can retain antimicrobial activity but have a better safety profile. Polyphenols are a diverse group of natural products, extracted from plants which have multiple properties including antimicrobial activity4. Due to their perceived safety there has been great interest in using polyphenols as preservatives in various food stuffs5. Prosur is one commercially available polyphenol mixture currently being added to various foods or evaluated for incorporation in others. Despite the potential for polyphenols as antimicrobials there are major knowledge gaps regarding their mechanisms of action, spectrum of activity or potential bacterial resistance.

This project aims to identify active polyphenols from a well curated panel and determine their mechanisms of action and investigate how foodborne pathogens respond to polyphenol exposure. The ultimate goal is to inform development of improved polyphenol formulations to be used in food.

The project will incorporate analytical chemistry, microbiology and functional genomics to provide complementary approaches to these problems.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1801735 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2020 Ryan Sweet
Title Polyphenol Initial Screening Methodology 
Description A simple, quick and efficient 96-well screening method for the assaying of Polyphenol bioactivity vs. a micro-organism of choice. This assay is flexible in that it can be modified to test for the inhibitory activity of isolated polyphenols, and for the potentiative activity of polyphenols in conjunction with a known, efflux-pump ejected antibiotic (Chloramphenicol in this case). Assay relies on OD(600nm) measurements at the end-point of an incubation period (usually O/N). 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Assay was generated during the first year of my "new" project (i.e; after my transfer from the IFR's Peck Group to the QIB's Webber Group). Allows for a quick, efficient and middling-throughput initial screening of Polyphenols; used in this project to identifiy Polpyhenols with sufficient bioactvity to take through to the next stage of more detailed, quantitative screening. 
Description Norwich Science Fair, Staffing a QIB Stand on Biocides, Antimicrobials and Antimicrobial Resistance 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Myself and the Webber Research Group manned a stand at the annual Norwich Science Fair at The Forum. Our stall was designed to educate the general public about biocides, antimicrobials and their overuse, antimicrobial resistance and for my particular part the potential of plant-based polyphenols as substitutes for the above. We engaged with well over 500+ members of the general public, many of which were young school children, to educate them about the appropriate use of biocides/antimicrobials and to hopefully inspire young children towards a career in scientific research.
Many members of the public left feedback after attending our stall, all of which was positive and complimentary in nature. Children in particular seemed to enjoy our stall and its' accompanied activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018