Thanks to savvy marketing by food corporations who are looking for health halos to put over their food, consumer demand for food products formulated without synthetic additives has increased.

There is a big drawback, demonstrated by Chipotle and others who are hoping to make themselves look healthier when selling junk food - it still has to be safe to eat. Additives, synthetic or not, are needed for food safety reasons, so food product developers are faced with the challenge of developing more "natural" additives that can produce comparable in safety results with synthetic versions. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Food Science found that extracts and isolated compounds from avocado seeds can potentially be used as a natural additive incorporated into ready-to-eat foods to control microbes that cause Listeria, a foodborne bacterial illness that can be very serious for pregnant women and people with impaired immune systems.

Researchers from Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico compared enriched acetogenin extract (EAE) from avocado seeds with two name-brand synthetic antimicrobials. They found that the EAE presented similar listeria-properties and chemical profiles to the synthetic antimicrobials. The EAE was effective at 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and at a refrigeration temperature of 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

While humans already consume actetogenins from avocado pulp that are above antilisterial levels, bioavailability and safety of the extracts from avocado seeds need further assessment. Avocado seeds are a waste product of the food industry, and these results offer a value-added, sustainable opportunity for manufacturers.