La natamicina en los quesos

What is natamycin, and what is its mechanism of action?

Natamycin or pimaricin appears naturally as a result of the fermentation of bacteria in the Streptomyces natalensis genus. It was discovered more than 50 years ago, and is mainly used for the preservation of food in both its liquid and powder form.

Natamycin protects food from mould and yeast growth using a mechanism that destabilises ergosterol in its cell wall. Ergosterol is responsible for the intracellular transport of nutrients and is therefore crucial for their survival. As ergosterol is not present on the outer membranes of the bacteria, they are unaffected.

Why is natamycin used?

Natamycin is one of the food preservatives permitted worldwide to protect products such as cheeses, fermented/dried sausages, yoghurts, beverages, wines, and baked goods against contamination by fungi and/or yeasts.

Thanks to natamycin’s benefits as a natural and efficient method of preserving food, its application has enormous potential to extend shelf life and prevent spoilage.

Embutidos fermentados/secados

Natamycin and shelf life

The main and most extensively approved areas for the application of natamycin are cheese and dried/fermented sausages. Both food categories need preservation against fungi and yeast, but need to allow cultures (i.e. bacteria) to remain active.

It is also used in crops and as external protection for fruit against contamination by moulds and yeasts that can lead its condition to deteriorate.

Effective at low doses and stable over a wide pH range

Natamycin is stable over a wide pH range (3 to 9), which means it is highly versatile. For prevention, natamycin is very active at low doses of between 3 to 20 ppm (i.e. 3 to 20 mg/kg of the end product).

Permitted worldwide

Natamycin has been approved as a food preservative suitable for human consumption by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Permitted applications by country

Health and safety information

Numerous safety studies confirm that there is no negative impact on human health at the usual doses of use. On the contrary, natamycin helps protect consumers from the damaging effects of mycotoxins, linked to various adverse health effects.

Safety limits

The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for natamycin has been determined by the World Health Organization at a maximum of 0.3 mg per kg of body weight / day to ensure its safety.

This data is far from the usual doses of use in allowed foods, which gives it a high level of safety.

Natamycin Labeling

In the European regulation on food additives, the natural mold inhibitor known as natamycin is described as a preservative (E 235) for the surface treatment of hard, semi-hard and semi-soft cheeses; and dried and cured sausages. Mandatory labeling is necessary when it is not used on the rind, but directly on the surface of the cheese. In some countries outside of Europe E numbers are not used and natamycin may be labeled as natamycin or pimaricin (a natural mold inhibitor)