Mushrooms That Could Save Your Food

How mushroom fibre could extend the shelf life of dairy products and even improve wine

When recent science graduates David Brown and Natasha Jean met in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the two became friends with a shared love of fitness and healthy eating. As chemists, they were aware of how bad for our bodies the preservatives in supermarket foods can be. Calcium propionate, for instance, prevents bread from going moudly by killing bacteria and yeast. But it has also been linked to an elevated risk of diabetes and obesity.

After reading a study about the capacity of mushroom fibre to preserve foods’ shelf life by acting as an antimicrobial agent, the two friends were intrigued. With a goal of developing a chemical-free preservative, they bought mushroom stems from farmers who would otherwise throw them out. Seven years later, in 2023, their company, Chinova Bioworks, has released mushroom-fibre extract that when added to foods, such as dairy products, increases shelf life with a taste that’s undetectable.

The company has even been testing the preservative with wineries in California and New Zealand. “It would replace the added sulfites that wine makers rely on right now for a long shelf life,” says Brown. Grapes naturally produce sulfite, so the extra is an overload that some people can’t tolerate.

It’s a win-win-win: for the climate (by reducing food-waste emissions), for our health and for the mushroom farmers who can sell their waste. “We’re trying to make an affordable product that companies will use,” says Brown. “We hope to make the food industry more sustainable.”

Next, read about why food made with artificial dyes should have a warning sticker.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada