U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

Antimicrobial activity of thyme oil co-nanoemulsified with sodium caseinate and lecithin

Jia Xue, P. Michael Davidson, Qixin Zhong
International journal of food microbiology 2015 v.210 pp. 1-8
Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella Enteritidis, anti-infective agents, anti-infective properties, bacteria, detection limit, dispersibility, emulsifiers, essential oils, food safety, foods, gentian violet, homogenization, membrane permeability, milk, milk fat, nanoemulsions, preservatives, sodium caseinate, thyme
Emulsions of essential oils are investigated as potential intervention strategies to improve food safety and are preferably prepared from generally-recognized-as-safe emulsifiers. Stable thyme oil nanoemulsions can be prepared using combinations of sodium caseinate (NaCas) and soy lecithin. The objective of the present research was to study the antimicrobial activity of these nanoemulsions and understand the impacts of emulsifier concentrations. 10g/L thyme oil was emulsified using combinations of (A) 4% w/v NaCas and 0.5% w/v lecithin or (B) 2% w/v NaCas and 0.25% w/v lecithin by high shear homogenization. Combination A resulted in a transparent emulsion with a mean droplet diameter of 82.5nm, while it was turbid for the Combination B with an average diameter of 125.5nm. Nanoemulsified thyme oil exhibited quicker initial reductions of bacteria than free thyme oil in tryptic soy broth (TSB) and 2% reduced fat milk at 21°C, due to the improved dispersibility of thyme oil. In TSB with 0.3g/L thyme oil, it took less than 4 and 8h for two nanoemulsions and free oil, respectively, to reduce Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes to be below the detection limit. The emulsified thyme oil also demonstrated more significant reductions of bacteria initially (4 and 8h) in 2% reduced fat milk than free thyme oil. Especially, with 4g/L thyme oil, the nanoemulsion prepared with Combination A reduced L. monocytogenes to be below the detection limit after 72h, while the free thyme oil treatment was only bacteriostatic and the turbid nanoemulsion treatment with Combination B resulted in about 1logCFU/mL reduction. However, E. coli O157:H7 treated with 3g/L emulsified thyme oil and Salmonella Enteritidis treated with 4g/L emulsified thyme oil recovered to a higher extent in milk than free thyme oil treatments. The increased concentration of emulsifiers in Combination A apparently reduced the antimicrobials available to alter bacteria membrane permeability as tested by the crystal violet assay at low antimicrobial concentrations and short time (1h). The findings suggest that nanoemulsions can be potentially used to incorporate thyme oil for use as antimicrobial preservatives in foods.