What is bioencapsulation?

Bioencapsulation is a preservation method commonly utilized for food, bioceuticals, and medicine. The molecules or materials of interest are surrounded by a specialized coating which allows for extended shelf life, controlled release, and increased effectiveness. The size of the encapsulated material can range from a few nanometers in diameter to football-size objects. For example, polymer coatings can be applied to proteins in order to prevent degradation. This produces nanoscale spherical particles. On the opposite side of the spectrum, large fish fillets can be preserved using a spray-on fish oil based coating. Other encapsulated products include dyes, fragrances, and

In addition to extending the shelf life of food, bioencapsulation increases food safety. By encapsulating produce, bacteria can be locked out of the food. This is especially important considering the long history of E. coli breakouts. Scientists recently investigated the use of an oregano oil coating which had the added benefit of antibacterial properties. Another approach to food encapsulation is to isolate the salt in meat. In the fast food industry, salt content in meat products can cause the flavor to deteriorate and the meat to become dry. By encapsulating the salt in fat, it cannot react with the meat until cooked.

Bioceuticals must be encapsulated in order to preserve their beneficial properties. Because bioceuticals often contain enzymes or probiotics, polymer coatings have to be used. These coatings block the passage of oxygen, effectively stopping enzyme degradation and oxidation of important nutrients. Ultimately, encapsulation stabilizes the product, protecting it from heat, light, and other elements.

How does bioencapsulation work?

There are many routes which accomplish bioencapsulation. When dealing with whole foods, spray nozzles are used. The encapsulating material is sprayed on the food allowing for an extended shelf life and increased nutrient retention. When encapsulating medications, an edible carbohydrate coating is applied in large drums where an even cover can be accomplished. If controlled release is the goal, specialized polymer coatings are used. The coating can be altered to adjust porosity and degradation properties for the benefit of drug release.




Teagasc (2009, March 11). Bioencapsulation: Creating A Safe Haven For Sensitive Ingredients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 29, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/02/090226105130.htm

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