Zeif aimed to launch research at Auburn University, Alabama, into corn protein Zein’s potential as an egg and poultry coating, he told GlobalMeatNews at the International Production & Processing Expo 2016 in Atlanta.
He said he believed the substance, which is a by-product of bioethanol production, could add at least three days to the shelf-life of poultry. “I can guarantee Zein sprayed on raw poultry would add three to four days shelf-life.
“We are focusing on poultry and fish. We want to get somebody to put it on a [production] line and test it.”
The use of chlorine spray as an anti-microbial coating for air cooled poultry in the US has become increasingly controversial and Zein offered a natural, and more effective, alternative, he claimed.
It is already used to coat confectionery products such as Wrigley’s chewing gum in order to make their flavour last longer. “They are coated with Zein, which time-releases the molecules used as flavour markers,” said Zeif.
It was a natural moisture barrier and was impregnated with nisin to boost its anti-microbial properties, so was also used to coat dried fruit, keeping it moist and free of pathogens, he added. Similarly, in the US it is used to coat some types of potatoes after harvesting to preserve their colour.
Zeif, who was adamant that Zein’s potential has not yet been fully realised, believed it could be used to spray on hay to deliver micronutrients to livestock through their feed. It could also be used as an alternative coating to oil and wax for eggs to extend their shelf-life, he said.
In addition, it could be used as a moisture-resistant, anti-microbial replacement coating for hamburger paper, he claimed.
The functional ingredient has been granted Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) status by the Food and Drug Administration for use in food products in the US. It is also approved for use as a foodstuff in the EU, making it much easier to transfer its use to a different food category.
“Zein has been around for over 100 years,” said Zeif. “It is highly tested.”
It is produced by Flo Chemical at a plant in Massachusetts using an electrophoretic process developed by Freeman Industries, is free from genetically modified ingredients, halal compliant and vegan-friendly. Shellac, an alternative to Zein, is not vegan friendly because it is made from beetle secretions.