Background: Biodegradable antimicrobial materials for food packaging applications are in great
demand by the food industry and society alike for the purposes of extending food shelf life, thus reducing the
environmental impacts associated with synthetic plastics. Among the natural and non-toxic active compounds
available, essential oils and their major components have been widely studied due to their antioxidant and antimicrobial
properties together with their Generally Recognized as Safe status.
Objective: In this review, the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of several essential oils and their major
compounds are summarized, as well as their action when included in different biopolymer-based matrices.
Both the method of incorporating active ingredients into the biopolymer matrix and the yield of such processes
as a function of the technique used (casting methods or thermoplastic processing) are also assessed. The effect
of active compounds on the functional properties of the films is reviewed, as well as the effective release of the
active ingredients into different food systems and food simulants, as affected by polymer-active interactions
and the nature of the food.
Conclusion: Finally, the antimicrobial action of some of these active compounds (embedded in different biopolymer
matrices) is also discussed both in in vitro studies and in antimicrobial tests performed using foods of