Myoglobin (Mb) oxidation, and the subsequent browning, is the primary basis for consumer rejection of fresh retail beef. Considerable effort has been directed by the industry towards the development of techniques that can enhance color stability. However, the underlying mechanism of Mb oxidation has been studied extensively, but is still not entirely understood. It is known that chelation of iron and copper delays Mb oxidation and browning, but a clear role for these metals has not been established in any current Mb oxidation mechanism. The objective of the current study was to examine the possibility that iron plays a more direct role in Mb oxidation, and that metal chelators such as milk mineral (MM) and sodium tripolyphosphate can inhibit this action. MM, a colloidal calcium phosphate of large molecular weight and undetermined structure, was demonstrated to be a high-affinity iron chelator. Non-heme iron was found to stimulate Mb oxidation even in the absence of lipid, showing for the first time that the role of ferrous iron was not limited to promoting lipid oxidation, but instead has a yet-to-be determined role as a pro-oxidant factor in Mb oxidation. Ferrous iron was found to promote Mb oxidation under standard atmospheric conditions, while in high oxygen systems this effect was not seen. Addition of catalase did not affect Mb oxidation. However, in iron-containing systems, catalase significantly slowed Mb oxidation, while MM addition completely reversed the stimulatory effect of added iron. Type I radical-quenching antioxidants were found to rapidly reduce ferric iron to the ferrous form. This strong reducing ability accounted for the pro-oxidant effects of rosmarinic acid and eugenol in the lipid-free Mb model system. In raw ground beef, Type I antioxidants were highly effective at preventing Mb oxidation in the presence of lipid. Of the Type II chelators examined, only MM was able to delay Mb oxidation as well as the Type I antioxidants, possibly because it is not as susceptible to enzymatic hydrolysis.
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