Plant volatiles: using Scented molecules as food additives

Nabila Ben Derbassi, Mariana C. Pedrosa, Sandrina Heleno, Marcio Carocho*, Isabel C.F.R. Ferreira, Lillian Barros*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Secondary metabolism of plants produces molecules that are widely used in the food industry for many years. The demand for these molecules has been increasing, and special focus has been given to volatile molecules. Scope: The study of secondary metabolites with special focus on the volatile molecules is overviewed, explaining their bioactivities and examples of application in the food industry. Approach: Systematic analysis of volatiles and their applications. Specific analysis of volatile components of plants and their use as active packaging and airborne food preservatives. Key findings: Some work has been done regarding volatiles in terms of food preservation but is focused mostly on postharvest protection. Considering the number of studies regarding the use of volatiles, the industry should start implementing these molecules for more sustainable approaches to preservation. Conclusions: The food industry has researched plant volatiles for some years, but the focus has been almost exclusively on postharvest protection, and more research can be directed to other food categories. Technology to overcome limitations of plant volatiles is expected to improve, placing pressure on regulatory bodies to allow these molecules in foods, on par with consumer and industry preference for natural-based molecules used in foods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-103
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in food science & technology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Essential oils
  • Food additives
  • Plant secondary metabolites
  • Plant volatiles


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