Nisin's role in preventing the formation of biogenic amines in fermented foods.


Fermented foods are an integral part of many cultures worldwide, valued not only for their unique flavors but also for their potential health benefits. However, during the fermentation process, certain compounds known as biogenic amines can form, posing health risks if consumed in excessive amounts. Biogenic amines are organic bases produced by the decarboxylation of amino acids and can accumulate in foods, particularly in those undergoing fermentation. One significant strategy to mitigate the formation of biogenic amines is the use of antimicrobial agents such as nisin. Nisin, a naturally occurring antimicrobial peptide, has been widely studied for its efficacy in inhibiting the growth of various microorganisms, including those responsible for biogenic amine production. This article explores the mechanisms behind nisin's action and its role in preventing the formation of biogenic amines in fermented foods.

The Formation of Biogenic Amines in Fermented Foods:

Biogenic amines are formed through the enzymatic decarboxylation of amino acids by microbial activity during the fermentation process. Common biogenic amines found in fermented foods include histamine, tyramine, cadaverine, and putrescine. These compounds can accumulate to levels that may cause adverse health effects, such as headaches, hypertension, and allergic reactions, especially in susceptible individuals. The presence of certain microorganisms, such as lactic acid bacteria, enterobacteria, and yeasts, contributes to the production of biogenic amines in fermented foods. Therefore, controlling microbial growth is crucial in reducing the formation of these potentially harmful compounds.

Nisin: An Overview and Mechanism of Action:

Nisin is a polycyclic antibacterial peptide produced by certain strains of the bacterium Lactococcus lactis. It is classified as a class I bacteriocin and is widely used as a food preservative due to its potent antimicrobial properties. Nisin primarily targets Gram-positive bacteria, including many foodborne pathogens and spoilage organisms. The mechanism of action of nisin involves binding to lipid II, a precursor molecule involved in bacterial cell wall synthesis, leading to pore formation and ultimately cell death. Additionally, nisin can disrupt membrane integrity and permeability, impairing vital cellular functions.

Nisin's Role in Inhibiting Biogenic Amine-Producing Microorganisms:

Studies have demonstrated that nisin exhibits inhibitory activity against several microorganisms known to produce biogenic amines during food fermentation. Lactic acid bacteria, such as Lactobacillus spp. and Pediococcus spp., are common targets of nisin due to their involvement in biogenic amine formation. By effectively controlling the growth of these bacteria, nisin helps prevent the enzymatic decarboxylation of amino acids and subsequent biogenic amine production. Furthermore, nisin's mode of action disrupts the integrity of microbial cell membranes, further reducing their ability to proliferate and produce biogenic amines.

Experimental Evidence Supporting Nisin's Efficacy:

Numerous studies have investigated the effectiveness of nisin in preventing the formation of biogenic amines in various fermented foods. For example, research on fermented sausages has shown that the addition of nisin inhibits the growth of biogenic amine-producing bacteria, resulting in lower levels of histamine and tyramine. Similarly, studies on cheese production have demonstrated that nisin supplementation reduces the accumulation of biogenic amines, thereby improving the safety and quality of the final product. Additionally, nisin has been incorporated into other fermented foods, such as fish sauce and soybean paste, with positive outcomes in terms of biogenic amine reduction.

Factors Influencing Nisin's Effectiveness:

Several factors can influence the efficacy of nisin in preventing the formation of biogenic amines in fermented foods. These include the concentration of nisin used, the pH and salt content of the food matrix, the presence of other antimicrobial compounds, and the specific microbial composition of the fermenting culture. Optimal conditions for nisin activity should be carefully determined to ensure maximum effectiveness while minimizing any adverse effects on food quality and sensory attributes.

Safety Considerations and Regulatory Aspects:

While nisin is generally regarded as safe for consumption, regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have established guidelines regarding its use as a food additive. Maximum permitted levels of nisin in various food products are specified to ensure consumer safety. Additionally, it is essential to monitor for the development of nisin-resistant strains of bacteria, which could potentially compromise its effectiveness as a biopreservative.


Nisin represents a promising strategy for preventing the formation of biogenic amines in fermented foods, thereby enhancing their safety and quality. Through its antimicrobial activity against biogenic amine-producing microorganisms, nisin helps mitigate health risks associated with excessive biogenic amine consumption. Continued research into the optimal use of nisin and its interactions within complex food matrices will contribute to its broader application in food preservation and public health. As consumers increasingly seek minimally processed and safer food options, the role of nisin in fermented food production is likely to become even more significant in the future.