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A Review Of Effects Of Carbon Dioxide On Microbial Growth And Food Quality

JAMES A. DANIELS, RAJAGOPALAN KRISHNAMURTHI, SYED S. H. RIZVI

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Carbon dioxide is effective for extending the shelf-life of perishable foods by retarding bacterial growth. The overall effect of carbon dioxide is to increase both the lag phase and the generation time of spoilage microorganisms; however, the specific mechanism for the bacteriostatic effect is not known. Displacement of oxygen and intracellular acidification were possible mechanisms that were proposed, then discounted, by early researchers. Rapid cellular penetration and alteration of cell permeability characteristics have also been reported, but their relation to the overall mechanism is not clear. Several researchers have proposed that carbon dioxide may first be solubilized into the liquid phase of the treated tissue to form carbonic acid (H2CO3), and investigations by the authors tend to confirm this step, as well as to indicate the possible direct use of carbonic acid for retarding bacterial spoilage. Most recently, a metabolic mechanism has been studied by a number of researchers whereby carbon dioxide in the cell has negative effects on various enzymatic and biochemical pathways. The combined effect of these metabolic interferences are thought to constitute a stress on the system, and result in a slowing of the growth rate. The degree to which carbon dioxide is effective generally increases with concentration, but high levels raise the possibility of establishing conditions where pathogenic organisms such as Clostridium botulinum may survive. It is thought that such risks can be minimized with proper sanitation and temperature control, and that the commercial development of food packaging systems employing carbon dioxide will increase in the coming years.