Effects of spices on rice spoilage

(1) The Honor Roll School, Sugar Land, Texas, (2) Parent mentor (no institutional affiliation)

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Spices have been used for centuries because they are thought to have antimicrobial properties that may delay food spoilage and prolong shelf life. Researchers have reported that chemical food preservatives like butylated hydroxy toluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxy anisole (BHA) can cause health hazards to humans, so we prefer organic food with natural preservatives. Rice is perishable once cooked. Hence, the purpose of our science project was to determine which types of commonly available spices would prevent or slow the growth of organisms in cooked rice. We hypothesized, based on the South Indian cultural practice of drinking “rasam” when sick to counteract infections, that some spices used in Indian cooking may have properties that enable them to fight infection and delay food spoilage by microorganisms. Hence for our experiment, we selected five spices in powder form and cooked white rice. We compared the outcome of adding spices to rice samples and measured spoilage rate by observing changes in color, texture and odor and detecting growth of mold on the rice samples and agar plates. According to the changes in smell and appearance of rice samples observed on days one through five, as well as growth detected on agar plates on day five, we can conclude that cinnamon was the most effective in delaying spoilage of cooked white rice, followed by cumin, pepper, garlic, and ginger. Although the tested spices cannot prevent spoilage of food, certain spices like cinnamon may have the ability to slow down the rate of food spoilage.

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