Nov 16, 2017 Extracts, Olive, Rosemary 0 comment

Functions of Rosemary Extract in food and its labeling.

Rosemary extracts are one of the ingredients with major potential in the food industry; for its effectiveness in slowing down the deterioration of food and by its natural origin. 

Their capacity as a preservative and antioxidant agent have been authorized for its application in meat, fish and oil, among others. This way, they become a natural alternative to synthetic additives and also ideal for clean labels.

In this article we explain their different functions in foods, we list their applications and we indicate how they must be labeled in the final product.


Causes of food spoilage.

To understand the functions of preservatives and antioxidants, first we need to explain why food suffers a deterioration process.

As food come from natural ingredients, it is an organic product – it has biological activity – and, like the rest of the living matter, it undergoes a progressive degradation.

Causes of food deterioration:


  • Microbial attack.

The main cause of degradation of food is due to bacteria, molds and yeasts, which cause biological alterations – fermentation, mold and putrefaction – that affect the shelf life of the food.


  • Fat oxidation.

The second cause is due to the action of free radicals, the molecules that cause oxidative stress in other ones, creating chain reactions that affect the lipid acids. The origin of free radicals in food can be endogenous or exogenous (environmental contamination, exposure to light, temperature, etc.).

The consequences of fat oxidation are manifested in alterations in the aroma, taste and color of the food, as well as the loss of nutrients and the risk that it appears harmful substances.

It must be said that some products with a high amount of natural fats have their own antioxidants, although most of the time they are lost during their handling (in the case of oils, when they are refined or subjected to high temperatures). That is why they must be reinforced with antioxidant substances such as extracts with hydroxytyrosol or rosemary extracts.

How to enlarge the shelf life.

The conservation of food exists since humans began to store good, either to face scarcity times or to be available after hunting or harvesting.

Drying, salting, curing and smoking processes have been the most common conservation techniques throughout history. But the development of science and technology have provide some substances with the same function, increasing food safety.

These substances come from plants, animals and minerals or can be produced synthetically. They are divided in two groups:

Preservatives: substances that inhibit the appearance of microorganisms or slow down their activity once they are present.

Antioxidants: substances that delay the oxidation of fats.

Rosemary extracts for food.

There are natural ingredients that perform preservative and antioxidant functions by themselves. Rosemary is one of them. Its leaves have traditionally been used in the preparation of homemade sausages; for its sensory properties but mainly for its contribution to the maintenance of this kind of food.

Rosemary’s bioactive compounds are responsible for these functions. Specifically, two types of polyphenols: the carnosic acid and the rosmarinic one. These actives prevent the formation of free radicals, so its application in food delays oxidation processes.

Rosemary is also a preservative agent for the anti-bactericidal action of the polyphenols. Specially, rosmarinic acid.

The functionality of rosemary multiplies when its compounds are isolated and concentrated in an extract, as we explained in our article about the properties of plant extracts.

In fact, several studies show that the antioxidant capacity of rosemary extract is more effective than other antioxidants used in the food industry traditionally, both in aqueous and fatty systems.

Read more about Romeary Extract and its properties as food antioxidant.

Common foods in which to apply rosemary extracts.

Rosemary extracts have diverse applications:

food applications for rosemary extracts

How to label rosemary extract.

Rosemary extracts are recognized by the world’s leading food authorities. In order to include them in food labels they can appear in two ways: as a food additive or without this consideration.

Rosemary extract as a food additive.

General considerations

Food additives are substances that are not consumed as a food by themselves nor are they part of the main list of ingredients – whether they have nutritional value or not – but they are added to improve the appearance, texture, taste or durabilty.

The additives are legally regulated and previously have been authorized by a scientific-technical organism. The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) is the institution responsible for approving them in Europe after carrying out the relevant safety controls; while the European Commission develops the legal framework that regulates its inclusion and application.

Therefore, if the legislation does not recognize a substance in its list of additives, we can not use this term on the label.

On the other hand, he fact that the Law contemplates additives does not mean that their use are mandatory. But if you want to apply some of the substances approved as an additive, they are only allowed to be applied in those foods indicated by the law and in the doses designated.

It should be said that additives are only necessary in some foods (for example in minced fresh meat). In others, their use is limited or unnecessary (fresh meat, milk, fruits, water, etc.).

The legislation divides the additives into categories: antioxidants, preservatives, colorants, sweeteners, flavor enhancers, etc. In order to name them, they must follow some defined rules: indicating their function and their specific name, or with an E number, a numerical classification system that allows faster identification by the industry (although not by the consumer).

The legislation for rosemary extracts

Rosemary extract standarized as a total of carnosic and carnosol acid is part of the European list of food additives since 2010 and it is located in the antioxidants category.

The range of foods on which it can be applied is large. To all those mentioned in the table above are joined by others foods such as broths, milk powder for the production of ice cream, nut butter, snack products based on starches, processed products from the egg, food supplements and even in the formulation of chewing gum. Each one of them has to adjust to the dose and specifications (levels of fat, heat treatment, etc.) legally established.

In the labels it must appear as Antioxidant (Extract of Rosemary) or as E-392 (antioxidants belong to the 300 series of the list of additives, with rosemary occupying position 92).

Rosemary extracts are the proof that not all additives are synthetic

Rosemary extract without the consideration of food additive.

The recognition of the extracts by global authorities – which also includes the Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) – as well as the sanitary controls that they pass during their manufacture allow to apply them regardless of whether they are considered as additives by the EU or not.

Rosemary extract standarized in rosmarinic acid is not part of the European list of additives, but can be used as a preservative agent. The only limitation is that we can not use the terms ‘additive’ or ‘antioxidant’ – even if it also realizes this function – in the list of ingredients. We must have to employ other terms such as Rosemary Extract, Rosemary Spice or Romero Scent.

nutexa rosemary extracts are food antioxidants and preservatives

Nutexa extracts are very rich with rosmaniric and carnosic acid.

Rosemary extracts in Clean Labels.

Nowadays there is a tendency in the food industry to reduce unnecessary additives as well as to clarify the names that appears in the labels for a better understanding by consumers, which in turn demand increasingly transparency as well as natural products.

This tendency has originated some new actions like clean labels, a global concept that bets for not including synthetic additives or numerical terminologies.

Therefore, rosemary extracts are an ideal product for clean labels.

More information on the citation of plant extracts in different types of labels.

Where to buy rosemary extracts.

In Nutexa we elaborate extracts with high levels of rosmaniric and carnosic acid, containing a high concentration of antioxidant, antibacterial and photoprotective actives due to our exclusive extraction process.

Rosemary extracts have two presentations: liquid and powder. The choice of the product and the format depends on the matrix where it is going to be applied (meat, oils, etc.) and the specific purpose (minced meat, cured meats, etc.).


If you want to apply rosemary extracts to your products, contact us and we will help you create an adapted formula.

In our LinkedIN profile  we include rosemary extracts news. Follow us to be up to date. We also talk about them in our monthly newsletter. Take a look in this link.



  1. Aditivos alimentarios. Dr. Francisco C. Ibáñez (Prof. TU); Dra. Paloma Torre (Prof. TU); Dra. Aurora Irigoyen (Ay) Área de Nutrición y Bromatología Universidad Pública de Navarra
  2. Use of rosemary extracts as a food additive. Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing. Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (Question No EFSA-Q-2003-140). Adopted on 7 March 2008. This opinion replaces the earlier version published on 12 June 2008.
  3. Jessy Moore, Michael Yousef, Evangelia Tsiani. Anticancer Effects of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) Extract and Rosemary Extract Polyphenols. Nutrients 2016, 8, 731; doi:10.3390/nu8110731
  4. Mona Ghasemian, Sina Owlia, Mohammad Bagher Owlia. Review of Anti-Inflammatory Herbal Medicines. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences Volume 2016, Article ID 9130979, 11 pages
  5. G.P.Amaral,N.R.deCarvalho,R.P.Barcelosetal.,“Protective action of ethanolic extract of Rosmarinus o cinalis L. in gastric ulcer prevention induced by ethanol in rats,” Food and Chemical Toxicology, vol. 55, pp. 48–55, 2013.
Functions of Rosemary Extract in food and its labeling.
Article Name
Functions of Rosemary Extract in food and its labeling.
Explanation about rosemary extract' antioxidant and preservative functions, list of its applications in food and guidance on how they must be labeled in the final product.