Researchers have found a novel way to replace artificial preservatives in bread with a natural compound, keeping it fresh while making it tastier.

Scientists at the University of Alberta Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science said they isolated the compounds from strains of mould fermented in sourdough bread and found they can preserve bread while not affecting its taste.

After loafing around in the lab analysing strains of mould fermented in sourdough bread, researcher Michael Ganzle and fellow researchers were able to isolate natural compounds that can help keep bread fresh without changing its flavour.

Preservatives added to store-bought bread are safe to eat and extend shelf life, but alter the flavour and give off a distinctive odour, said Ganzle.

The research is the first to link the compounds — hydroxy fatty acids — to anti-fungal activity and to show that these compounds are formed in the production of fermented foods.

“We were able to put known compounds into quite a new and exciting context,” Gaenzle said in a statement.

The findings served up by the researchers also have the potential to replace or complement fungicides used in treating crop seeds such as barley, wheat and canola, and in protecting crops. The study will appear in the March 6 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal. — PTI