Microorganisms play an essential role in the production and refinement of food and beverages. Mushrooms and products made from algae even contribute directly to human nutrition. However, microorganisms do not only have positive effects. Some are responsible for food spoilage. Food processing also has to deal with them.
Some examples for food and beverages produced with the help of microorganisms:• Sauerkraut• Rye leaven - and yeast bread• Yoghurt• Cheese• Sausage• Wine, Beer• Vinegar
An important function of microorganisms in human nutrition is preserving foodstuffs. This is often done by fermentation. This means that organic substances are converted into acid, gases or alcohol by microorganisms such as bacteria, yeasts or moulds. Thus foodstuffs spoil less quickly. Microorganisms are responsible for the following processes in the food industry:
• Fermentation of sugar to alcohol
• Production of vitamins, amino acids and flavours
• Intensification of taste and gain of quality
• Increase of digestibility
• Improvement of nutrient availability
The Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology of the Max Rubner-Institute as part of the departmental research of the BMEL investigates microorganisms that are important for quality and safety of food. They are concerned with the optimisation of desired properties through the use of microorganisms and the prevention of undesirable effects of microorganisms in foodstuffs.
Nowadays, special strains are cultivated and offered by industry for microorganisms used for food processing and preservation.
Edible mushrooms and algae
The fruiting bodies of many fungal species are edible and contribute to human nutrition as a tasty, low-calorie, protein-, mineral- and fibre-rich diet. Wild mushrooms are collected directly in nature, which requires a high degree of knowledge of species and ecosystems. Microalgae such as spirulina or chlorella are used as food supplements due to their high content of essential amino acids and minerals.
Countless microorganisms colonize the intestine and live in interaction with us. They help with digestion, but their composition obviously also has a significant influence on health. However, the occupation of the so-called intestinal flora, its effects and interactions have not yet been fully researched. Probiotic foods take aim on this aspect of health promotion. They contain living bacteria that are supposed to settle in the intestine and support a healthy intestinal flora.