Microbes and food 3. Food producers
next
last
3.4 Microbial food ingredients
Many food ingredients are made by large scale fermentations of microbes. These include flavourings, thickeners, stabilisers and enzymes. Some of these are shown in the following list:

top
Product
Microbe
Use(s)
Amino acids:
Glutamic acid
Lysine & methionine
Phenylalanine & aspartic acid

Corynebacterium glutamicum
Brevibacterium flavum
A commercial secret!

Flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate
Cereal food supplement
Ingredients of the artificial sweetener aspartame (Nutrasweet®)
Citric acid
Aspergillus niger
Flavouring, antioxidant, pH adjuster, emulsifier
Enzymes:
a-amylase
b-amylase
Cellulase
Invertase
Lactase
Oxidases
Lipase

Pectinase
Proteases
Rennin (chymosin)

Aspergillus spp.
Bacillus subtilis
Trichoderma viride
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Saccharomyces fragilis
Aspergillus niger
Aspergillus niger

Aspergillus niger
Aspergillus oryzae
Mucor, E. coli

Laundry detergent
Brewing
Fruit juices, coffee, paper
Sweet manufacture
Digestive aid, sweet manufacture
Paper & fabric bleaching
Washing powders, leather tanning, cheese production
Fruit juice
Meat tenderiser, leather tanning
Cheese production
Vitamins:
Vitamin B12
Riboflavin
Vitamin C

Pseudomonas spp
Ashbya gossypii
Acetobacter spp.

Health supplement
Health supplement
Health supplement
Food for the future
In the future, microbes will be needed even more to help feed the increasing population of the world.

They could be used to develop DNA technology that:

  • protects food crops – biological pesticides can be used to protect vegetables and fruit when chemical measures no longer work
  • improve the nutritional quality of foods in developing countries.

However GM foods are a controversial issue at present and public concerns have halted many research programmes in this area.

Take a look at the NCBE GM food guide for more information.