International Food Research Journal 28(5): 893 - 904 (October 2021)
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Recently, the utilisation of essential oils extracted from spices has been garnering interest due
to their phytochemical constituents which could be extracted using various techniques.
Studies have demonstrated antimicrobial activities from essential oils against foodborne
pathogens, and thus, their application has been considered to be a possible preservative for
foods. Pimenta dioica is a type of aromatic plant, and its essential oil is is rich in eugenol, a
phenolic compound with wide antimicrobial spectrum. Other bioactive compounds in P.
dioica extract include glycosides, alkaloids, carbohydrates, proteins, flavonoids, and tannins.
The incorporation of essential oils into food is limited because they have an intense aroma,
and might affect consumer acceptance. Therefore, nanotechnology is applied as a tool to
rectify this limitation, and it is now possible to apply essential oils in active packaging, or to
encapsulate them in biodegradable materials or edible coatings with controlled release.
However, there is little information on the interaction of nanoencapsulated bioactive
composites, and thus, it is essential to assess the viability of biomaterials before their use. The
objective of this work is to show the use of the essential oil of Pimenta dioica and its
phytochemical composites in a general way for its potential application in food technology.
Received: 8 July 2020
Received in revised form:
29 January 2021
12 April 2021
The use of spices and their extracts for
medicinal and gastronomic purposes dates back to
ancient Egypt, with preservation of meat products
being the first application. Now, they are used as
seasonings and preservatives due to their antioxidant
and antimicrobial properties (Clemenson, 2019).
Essential oils (EOs) are chemical compounds
obtained from different parts of plants such as seed,
leaf, and bark by different techniques. EOs are
volatile and lipophilic bioactive compounds that
generate different properties in plants (Calo et al.,
2015). They are aromatic compounds used in the
food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries
(Oussalah et al., 2007; Bhargava et al., 2015). The
use of natural compounds for human and animal
consumption has been increasing, and stimulated
research that explores new applications for EOs
(Perricone et al., 2015).
Research has reported the antimicrobial
properties of EOs against microorganisms that spoil
food, and the application of EOs as a type of potential
green preservative for foods has been considered
(Passarinho et al., 2014; Calo et al., 2015; Bhargava
et al., 2015; Zhang et al., 2016). The antimicrobial
activity of EOs implies the ability of its hydrophobic
compounds to alter the cell membranes of
microorganisms, thus modifying their cell structure
and membrane permeability which eventually leads to
cell death (Zhang et al., 2016). The antimicrobial
properties of EOs are due to the interactions among
their chemical compounds (Chouhan et al., 2017;
Marchese et al., 2017).
The EO of Pimenta dioica, which is an
aromatic plant, has also been reported to have
antimicrobial and antioxidant properties (Dima et al.,
2014) due to the abundance of eugenol (Priya et al.,
2012), a phenolic compound with a wide spectrum
antimicrobial property, in its EO (Monteiro et al.,
2011; Marchese et al., 2017). Phytochemical analyses
of P. dioica leaf extract report the presence of
glycosides, alkaloids, carbohydrates, flavonoids,
tannins, and proteins (Mathew and Lincy, 2013).
Methyl eugenol, eugenol, myrcene, β-caryophyllene,
cineole, and limonene have also been reported
(Kikiuzaki et al., 1999; Jirovetz et al., 2007; Tucker
and Maciarello, 1991; Mohamed et al., 2007; Siju et
1Departamento de Ingeniería Agroindustrial, Universidad Politécnica de Guanajuato, Cortazar, Guanajuato, México
2Departamento de Ingeniería Bioquímica, Tecnológico Nacional de México en Celaya, Guanajuato, México
1Jarquín-Enríquez, L., 1Ibarra-Torres, P., 2Jiménez-Islas, H. and 1*Flores-Martínez, N. L.
Pimenta dioica: a review on its composition, phytochemistry, and
applications in food technology
894 Jarquín-Enríquez, L., et al./IFRJ 28(5) : 893 - 904
Origin, taxonomy, and distribution
Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr. (Merrill, 1947),
commonly known as allspice, is a tree producing
fruits which are dried and used as spice in culinary.
Allspice belongs to the family Myrtaceae, and is
known in French as le piment de la Jamaique piment,
in Spanish as pimenta gorda, and in Portuguese as
pimenta da Jamaica. The common name allspice was
proposed by John Ray, an English botanist, who
identified its flavour as a combination of cloves,
cinnamon, and nutmeg (Rema and Krishnamoorthy,
2012). The family Myrtaceae consists of
approximately 3,000 species, most of which grow in
the tropics. The genus Pimenta Lindl. consists of
approximately 18 species of aromatic shrubs and
trees native to the tropical America (Willis, 1966).
The trees grow to a height of 7 m, the trunk has
reddish brown bark, and the seed is dark green and
becomes brown to black when dried as a single seed
(Vasconcelos et al., 2018).
Pimenta dioica is native to the West Indies
(Jamaica; hence its French and Portuguese name).
However, it is also found in Central America
(Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Honduras, and Costa
Rica) and the neighbouring Caribbean islands,
although its original home is under debate. Currently,
Jamaica produces 70% of the world’s production of
P. dioica, and the remaining 30% is produced by
Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize
combined. Ripe berries, due to their oleoresin
content, are commercially important in the
pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food industries. They
are of high quality due to their flavour, size, and
appearance, giving them a good price in the market.
The main importing countries are the UK, Germany,
Finland, Sweden, USA, and Canada. Its leaf oil is
mainly exported to the UK and USA (Rema and
Essential oils (EOs) are volatile liquids
extracted from bark, bud, flower, fruit, leaf, root, and
stem. In EOs, more than 50 phytochemical species
such as terpenes, terpenoids, and aromatic
constituents have been isolated and identified, and
they play vital roles in the antimicrobial property of
EOs (Mariod, 2016). Nowadays, EOs have been used
as flavouring and functional ingredients in foods
(Kalantari et al., 2012). The highest concentration of
EOs allowed in foods is approximately 0.025%
(Krishnamoorthy and Rema, 2004). EOs differ in
their odours, optical properties, and refractive
indices. They are soluble in alcohol and ether, but
immiscible in water. EOs contain alcohols,
hydrocarbons, aldehydes, and ketones, among others
(Noudogbessi et al., 2012). Of late, the interest in the
direct or synergistic application of EOs in the food
industry has been increasing (Carocho et al., 2014).
For P. dioica, its EO is extracted from the berries and
leaves, and is also applied in the food, cosmetic, and
pharmaceutical industries (Rao et al., 2012).
Generally, phytochemical compounds are
non-nutritive secondary metabolites, and they often
have other functional properties such as antimicrobi-
al against wide range of foodborne microorganisms.
Based on their complex chemical structure,
phytochemicals are generally classified into major
groups such as polyphenols, carotenoids, alkaloids,
sulphur-containing groups, terpenes, and terpenoids
(Prakash et al., 2020).
The partitioning of phenolic compounds
depends on the part of the tissue/plant (Robards,
2003). The precursor phenolic compounds are
tyrosine and phenylalanine, which have hydroxyl
groups attached to the aromatic ring, and are
aromatic compounds of plants (Naczk and Shahidi,
2004; Muchuweti et al., 2007). Phenolic compounds
are soluble in water, and when combined with a sugar
molecule, they can be found as glycosides
(Muchuweti et al., 2007). Phytoalexins are phenolic
compounds that act as antimicrobial compounds
(Naczk and Shahidi, 2004). The phytochemical
compounds found in EOs could also have
antimicrobial, antidiabetic, and anticancer properties
(Mahomoodally et al., 2018). Approximately, 8,000
polyphenols have been identified thus far, and these
can be subclassified into various groups ranging from
phenolic acids to tannins (Muchuweti et al., 2007).
Dima et al. (2014) identified 23 phytochemi-
cal compounds in P. dioica EO obtained by
supercritical CO2 extraction, which are represented in
Table 1, with eugenol being the most abundant
(68.06%). In another study, Suprani-Marques et al.
(2019) identified the compounds in P. dioica leaves,
extracted by hydrodistillation utilising gas
chromatography with flame ionisation (Table 2).
For decades, EOs have been used due to their
various biological activities. However, the scientific
basis for these activities is still being investigated
(El-Soud et al., 2012; Raut and Karuppayil, 2014).
Due to their biological activities, more than 300 EOs
have industrial importance (El-Soud et al., 2012;
Raut and Karuppayil, 2014). They can be applied
both in the food industry and for medical purposes
due to their wide spectrum (Bakkali et al., 2008;
Perricone et al., 2015; Pandey et al., 2016;
Jarquín-Enríquez, L., et al./IFRJ 28(5) : 893 - 904 895
Compound % areaa RIb
γ-Terpinene 0.48 1060
γ-Cardinene 0.48 1520
β-Selinene 0.38 1488
β-Phellandrene 1.34 1031
α-Pinene 0.27 934
α-Phellandrene 6.67 1006
α-Humulene 1.51 1454
α-(E,E)-Farnesene 0.09 1508
Trans-β-ocimene 0.72 1050
Trans-nerolidol 0.04 1560
Teroinolene 1.36 1086
p-Cymene 1.11 1026
Myrcene 0.23 990
Methyl eugenol 9.37 1403
Linalool 0.12 1100
Limonene 0.35 1029
Isoeugenol 0.12 1405
Eugenol 68.06 1357
Chavicol 0.26 1248
1,8-Cineole 1.65 1035
Table 1. Chemical compounds in Pimenta dioica essential oil obtained
by supercritical fluid extraction (Dima et al., 2014).
aThe quantitative results were obtained electronically from FID area data
without using correction factors, and bretention index.
Table 2. Chemical compounds in the essential oil of Pimenta dioica essen-
tial oil (Suprani-Marques et al., 2019).
aLiterature retention index, bExperimental retention index, and c% area
obtained by GC-FID with the Rtx-5MS capillary column.
Trans-hex-2-enal - - 0.5
5-Methylheptan-3-one - 988 2.4
Octan-3-ol 993 996 0.8
α-Phellandrene 1005 1000 1.9
Linalool 1098 1098 2.8
Eugenol 1356 1345 18.3
896 Jarquín-Enríquez, L., et al./IFRJ 28(5) : 893 - 904
Ribeiro-Santos et al., 2017). The synergistic effect of
essential oils has been shown to be due to the
biological properties of their compounds
(Ribeiro-Santos et al., 2017).
Most EOs from spices and herbs such as
oregano, thyme, cinnamon, cloves, and their
phytochemical compounds such as thymol,
cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, and carvacrol are
classified as generally recognised as safe (GRAS) by
the FDA. EOs have also been analysed for their
antimicrobial capacity against pathogens (Burt,
2004; Shaaban et al., 2012; Pandey et al., 2016). The
lipid composition allows transport through the
cytoplasmic membrane and the cell wall of
pathogenic microorganisms, thus altering their
structure. EO-based products are available to control
the growth or inhibition of microorganisms in food
(Bakkali et al., 2008; Saad et al., 2013).
Bacteria are the leading cause of foodborne
illnesses (USDA, 2012). The demand for more
natural (minimally processed) foods has been
increasing; therefore, it is suggested to use
preservatives of natural origin such as herbal and
spice extracts (Hyldgaard et al., 2012; Kim et al.,
2012) to reduce bacterial contamination. Several
studies report the direct addition of aromatic plant
essential oils and extracts to foodstuffs to exert
antibacterial or antioxidant effects (Carvalho-Costa
et al., 2015). The application of an EO is due to its
antibacterial activity, especially in the food and
pharmaceutical industries (Burt, 2004; Lang and
Buchbauer, 2012). The literature reports the
activities of the EOs of aromatic plant species against
Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria
The EO of P. dioica has been shown to have
antibacterial properties with wide spectrum (Zabka et
al., 2009; Rao et al., 2010). Table 3 shows an
example of the application of chitosan and
microencapsulated carrageenan against microorgan-
isms (Dima et al., 2014). In another study,
Lorenzo-Leal et al. (2019) reported antibacterial
activity against Salmonella Typhimurium and
Listeria monocytogenes in alfalfa seeds.
The greatest postharvest damage to food is
caused by fungi which leads to great economic losses
(Sivakumar and Bautista-Baños, 2014). In the field
of food safety, due to the production of mycotoxins,
fungi of the genera Fusarium, Aspergillus, and
Penicillium are the most analysed (D’Mello et al.,
1998; Serra et al., 2006). The damages caused by
mycotoxins in fresh and packaged products have
been shown to be a health hazard (Yaouba et al.,
2010; Lang and Buchbauer, 2012). The use of EOs as
alternatives in food preservation due to their low
toxicity and antifungal activity could be promising
Fusarium and Aspergillus cause very serious
human mycoses. The treatment of these species is
most problematic and questionable due to the toxicity
Table 3. Antibacterial potential of raw and encapsulated Pimenta dioica essential oil (Dima
et al., 2014).
Values are mean ± SD of triplicates (n = 3). Means with different lowercase superscripts in the same
row are significantly different, as determined by Tukey’s test (α = 0.05).
Diameter of inhibition zone
Raw P. dioica
Bacillus subtilis MIUG B106B 1.2 ± 0.02a 3.2 ± 0.17b 2.7 ± 0.10c
Bacillus cereus MIUG B107B 1.0 ± 0.01a 5.5 ± 0.11b 4.8 ± 0.21c
Rhodotorula glutinis MIUG D7 1.0 ± 0.01a 1.8 ± 0.02b 1.1 ± 0.13a
Candida utilis MIUG D8 2.3 ± 0.03a 4.2 ± 0.20b 3.5 ± 0.17c
Saccharomyces cerevisiae 0.9 ± 0.12ab 1.1 ± 0.07a 0.7 ± 0.07b
Aspergillus niger MIUG M5 1.0 ± 0.05a 3.1 ± 0.19b 2.8 ± 0.11b
Penicillium glaucum MIUG M9 2.0 ± 0.13a 1.0 ± 0.08b 0.6 ± 0.05c
Geotrichum candidum MIUG M13 1.0 ± 0.09a 2.1 ± 0.04b 1.6 ± 0.05c
Jarquín-Enríquez, L., et al./IFRJ 28(5) : 893 - 904 897
and side effects of synthetic fungicides (Johnson and
Kauffman, 2003; Scott et al., 2007; Nucci and
Anaissie, 2007; Howard et al., 2008) which could
potentially lead to health risks (Scordino et al.,
2008). Due to the increasing incidence of resistant
fungal pathogenic species (Deising et al., 2008), the
search for novel antifungal compounds from natural
sources have also been increasing (Pinto et al., 2007;
Kumar et al., 2008; Srivastava et al., 2008).
Dima et al. (2014) reported two types of
microspheres: chitosan microspheres with P. dioica
EO covered with κ-carrageenan (type A), and
chitosan/κ-carrageenan microspheres with P. dioica
EO (type B), both of which had inhibitory effect at
different degrees against the tested microorganisms
as shown in Table 3. In order to know the significant
differences between treatments, we added to Table 3
a Tukey's analysis. Pimenta dioica EO microencap-
sulated in chitosan/κ-carrageenan exhibited an
increase in bioactive potential unlike P. dioica EO
that was not encapsulated. The antibacterial activity
of chitosan (Dutta et al., 2009) and the antifungal
activity of P. dioica EO against Saccharomyces
cerevisiae, Candida sp., and Aspergillus niger
(Oussualah et al., 2006; 2007; Kamble-Vilas and
Patil, 2008) have been well documented.
Anti-inflammatory, sedative, and spasmolytic
Some EOs have also been considered as
anti-inflammatory drugs (Pérez et al., 2011) due to
their ability to eliminate some free radicals (Miguel,
2010). Among the effects reported by EOs' bioactive
compounds is the reduction of pain sensitivity
(Lenardao et al., 2016). Some EOs also have
activities such as anxiolytics and pain relievers
(Dobetsberger and Buchbauer, 2011). Plant extracts
have been used as home remedies against
gastrointestinal disorders (Bakkali et al., 2008).
Most EOs have antioxidant potential because
they can scavenge free radicals, and therefore, play
an important role in the prevention or control of
various diseases, as evidence suggests that many
diseases may be the result of cell damage caused by
free radicals (Edris, 2007; Adorjan and Buchbauer,
2010). This property generates an alternative for the
use of EOs as organic preservatives with antioxidant
effects. The antioxidant effects of EOs are due to the
inherent properties of some of their bioactive
components, particularly phenols, to inhibit or delay
the aerobic oxidation of organic matter (Miguel,
2010; Amorati et al., 2013).
Research has reported a correlation between
the resistance to oxidative degradation and hydroxyl
(OH) groups of chemical compounds in EOs, which
may be cytotoxic. The hydroxyl groups of EOs are
donors of hydrogen, thus eliminating the production
of free radicals in the oxidative process of lipids. In
the case of P. dioica EO, the antioxidant activity is
mainly due to methyl eugenol and eugenol, as shown
in Table 4.
The bioactive compounds of EOs is
functional and beneficial; however, some could be
cytotoxic (Bakkali et al., 2008; Raut and Karuppayil,
2014), irritant, corrosive, and phytotoxic. For this
reason, it is necessary to generate the toxicity profile
of each EO since the toxicity of an EO can vary based
on its composition (Tisserand and Young, 2014).
Pimenta dioica extract is, however, non-toxic and
reports indicate significant cytoprotective activities
(Al-Rehaily et al., 2002; Ramos et al., 2003; Nayak
and Abhilash, 2008). They can be applied as safe and
organic antifungal treatments. This could lead to the
recommendation of P. dioica EO as a modern and
effective alternative fungicide without risks to the
health of consumers (Vaccari et al., 1999; Gray et al.,
1999; Hojo et al., 2000).
Applications in food technology
Currently, novel techniques such as the
nanoencapsulation of EOs to improve their thermal
stability, controlled release in food, and bioactivity
are being developed (Lopez-Rubio et al., 2006; Bilia
et al., 2014). The common materials used to
encapsulate EOs are cellulose, starch, chitosan,
pectin, carrageenan, alginate, and xanthan. The
microencapsulation technique helps to retain and
control the release rate of active compounds, and
avoid light and heat-induced oxidation in elaborate
particles of polysaccharides and proteins between 1
and 1,000 µm in size (Martins et al., 2014).
In general, the nanoencapsulated bioactive
compounds exhibited significant efficacy over the
free form due to the increased surface area and the
protection of the encapsulated compounds from both
(FRAP) (mmol/100 g)
100.4 Carlsen et al. (2010)
DPPH (% Inhibition) 545.4 Embuscado (2015)
421.5 Embuscado (2015)
Table 4. Phenolic content and antioxidant activity of
Pimenta dioica essential oil.
Jarquín-Enríquez, L., et al./IFRJ 28(5) : 893 - 904
external (oxygen, light, and moisture) and internal
environments (pH variation, chemical composition
of food, and water activity) of food systems with the
controlled release of bioactive compounds.
Although the use of nanotechnology in food
science has higher potential to boost the preservative
capacity of plant-based bioactive compounds, the
lack of information about the possible interaction of
nanoparticles with food components and living cells
limits the regulatory approval of most agents in food
systems. Therefore, a detailed understanding of the
possible interactions between nanomaterials and
food components, as well as the intended effects on
consumer health must be explored for their
application worldwide (Clemenson, 2019).
Due to the intense aroma of some EOs, their
application is limited to avoid consumer rejection
(Hyldgaard et al., 2012). For this reason, one way to
apply EOs is to encapsulate them in order to avoid
evaporation and control their release, and they can
also be applied to active packaging (Sanches-Silva et
al., 2014). The encapsulated EOs can be incorporated
into edible coatings to avoid denaturation and delay
the oxidation (Sanches-Silva et al., 2014). The
industrial application of EOs is also limited due to
their high volatility, low stability, solubility,
hydrophobicity, and photosensitivity. One way to
overcome these limitations is nanoencapsulation
applications, as they have proven to be effective in
preserving the properties of EOs in foodstuffs. Some
of the advantages offered by this technique are to
mask the intense aroma of essential oils, increase
their solubility in aqueous medium, and avoid
negative interactions with food components
(Ribeiro-Santos et al., 2017).
Flores-Martínez et al. (2017) reported the
incorporation of P. dioica EO in edible films based
on Aloe vera gelatine, producing a significant effect
on the water vapour permeability of the material that
was directly proportional to the concentration of the
EO. Badee et al. (2012) found greater flavour
retention in encapsulated oil with Arabic gum. Ahn et
al. (2008) found that rosemary extracts can inhibit
lipid oxidation by microencapsulating it. Almeida et
al. (2013) encapsulated oregano EO in starches from
different sources, and found different biological
activities. Gundewadi et al. (2018a; 2018b)
described that the nanoemulsion of basil oil showed
improved antimicrobial activity (≤ 20%) against the
two most common food spoilage fungi, Penicillium
chrysogenum and Aspergillus flavus. Lee et al.
(2017) prepared silymarin nanocapsules of
Table 5. Encapsulating materials, sources, and applications (Carlsen et al., 2010).
Encapsulating material Source Application Reference
Legume, cereal, potato,
carrot, and banana
Food preservation Fathi et al. (2014)
Cellulose Wood pulp and cotton fibre
Essential oil encapsulation
enzyme and biosensing
George and Sabapathi (2015)
Pectin Plant cell wall
Pharmaceutic gelling agents and
Srivastava and Malviya (2011)
Guar gum Cyamopsis tetragonoloba
Food applications, encapsulation,
and food preservation
Mudgil et al. (2014)
Chitosan Crustacean shell
Food applications, encapsulation,
and food preservation
Elgadir et al. (2015)
Alginate Brown sea algae
Food applications, gelling agents,
encapsulation, and food
Lee and Mooney (2012)
member such as Chondrus
Gigartina stellate, Iridaea,
Gelling agents, encapsulation,
food application, food
preservation, and stabilizing
Xanthan Xanthomonas campestris
Food preservation, hydrogel,
matrix systems, and nanoparticles
Benny et al. (2014)
Dextran Family Lactobacillaceae
Food applications, gelling agents,
encapsulation, and food
Fathi et al. (2014)
Cyclodextrin Bacillus amylobacter
Anticancer food preservation,
food application, and reduction in
Gidwani and Vyas (2015)
water-soluble chitosan and glutamic acid. They
stated that the nanoencapsulation process significant-
ly enhanced both the solubility (7.7-fold) and
antimicrobial activity of silymarin. Mohammadi et
al. (2015) examined the in vitro and in vivo
antimicrobial activities of nanoencapsulated
Cinnamomum zeylanicum EO (Ne-CEO) against
Phytophthora drechsleri. The in vivo findings
showed that Ne-CEO significantly decreased the
severity of the disease and incidence of pathogens at
1.5 g/L. Hasani et al. (2018) prepared a mixture of
lemon EO using chitosan (CS) and modified starch
(Hicap) to boost the physicochemical properties and
thermal stability of the EO by using the freeze-drying
method. These studies confirm that nanotechnology
enhances the bioactive properties of EOs.
The molecular structures of encapsulating
agents based on plant extracts such as cellulose,
pectin, starch, and guar gum are usually used to
encapsulate EOs. In recent years, encapsulating
agents, whether animal/vegetable/microbial-based
have been used in the food industry as carriers of
volatile agents in food systems (Prakash et al., 2018).
Table 5 shows the materials used as encapsulants,
sources, and applications.
Finally, different techniques are used to
encapsulate EOs such as freeze-drying,
nanoemulsion, spray drying, and coacervation. One
of the most widely used techniques for the
encapsulation of EOs is spray drying, since its
handling is relatively simple, and the process is fast
at a relatively low cost (Yeo et al., 2001).
Today, there is a special interest in
characterising products such as spices since they are
majorly used by the food industry. Their properties
also justify their applications in other industries such
as cosmetics, fragrances, and pharmaceuticals.
Within the context of cultivated spices, P. dioica is
one of the most important, as a source for essential
oils rich in eugenol, which is a phenolic compound
with a wide spectrum of antioxidant and antimicrobi-
al activities against various microorganisms. In
Central America, P. dioica produced is sent to the
international market since its consumption in the
local market is insignificant. However, its production
and drying are largely traditional. Therefore, it is
necessary to develop mechanised technology which
requires less drying time while preserving its quality.
Regarding its application, nanoencapsulation will
facilitate the use of essential oils by protecting them
against oxygen degradation, masking the intense
aroma, increasing their solubility, and using them as
natural preservatives. Therefore, the challenge is to
develop and optimise techniques that can quantify
the phenolic compounds in essential oils that have
potential applications in the food industry.
The authors acknowledge Universidad
Politécnica de Guanajuato (UPG), Mexico via
Subdirección de Investigación, Posgrado e
Internacionalización, and Tecnológico Nacional de
México (TecNM) for their contribution and
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