Microbes in the Food Industry
The development of fermented food is one of the oldest technologies known to man since the dawn of civilisation. Methods of fermentation of milk product like yogurt have been described in ancient scripture like the Vedas in India and the Bible. Records of fermentation of meats, vegetables and milk have also been found as early as 6000 BC (Fox et al 1993). With the discovery of microbes by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and development of the science of microbiology in the 1850s, the biological basis of fermentation was understood for the first time. Adam (1990) defines food fermentation as a form of energy-yielding microbial metabolism in which an organic substrate usually a carbohydrate is incompletely oxidised and an organic carbohydrate acts as an electron acceptor. Thus, by this definition the production of ethanol by yeasts or organic acids by lactic acid bacteria is considered as fermentation. Thus, fermented foods are the foods which are produced or preserved by the action of microorganisms. Originally, food fermentations were carried with the primary purpose to achieve preservation effect for long-term use. With the development of alternative technologies for food preservation and long-term storage, there is no longer pressing need of food to be preserved by fermentation. Fermented foods are currently being manufactured because of their unique flavour, aroma and texture attributed which are generally relished by the consumer. Today, fermented foods are an integral part of our staple diet.