Fermented foods and drinks play a substantial dietary role in people living in affluent nations as well as the people of developing countries. These foods and drinks are found in supermarkets and in wet markets. The prices of these products vary markedly: some wines may be expensive while some bean products are much cheaper. Man wisely exploited fungi in the production of tasty foods and drinks well before the advent of modern biotechnology. Today some of these fermentation procedures have developed into lucrative enterprises. Some of the fermented products, e.g., red wine, reportedly have health-promoting effects. Many of the fermented products have been found to be aflatoxin-free. Nevertheless, a few incidents of poisoning after consumption of fermented food have been reported. It is essential that aflatoxin-free raw materials and nontoxic cultures be used for food fermentation.
Recent research on fermented food has focused in several areas including the effect of fermented foods on health. The anka mold, Monascus anka, contains the antioxidant dimerumic acid (Aniya et al. 2000). The hypocholesterolemic effect of fermented dairy products and their mechanism of action have been reported (St-Onge et al. 2000). A principal flavor component of soy sauce, 4-hydroxy-2(or 5)-ethyl-5(or 2)-methyl-(2H) furanone is a potent anticarcinogen in mice (Nagahara et al. 1992). Both beneficial and harmful effects due to kombucha (tea fungus) ingestion in animal experiments and in humans have been described (Greenwalt et al. 2000).
Another area of recent research is the investigation of the chemical constituents and nutritive values of fermented foods.
The changes in the major components of kombucha during prolonged fermentation have been followed (Chen and Liu 2000). The nutritive value of the fermented Nigerian beverage, burukutu and the chemical changes have been examined (Odetokun 1997). The levels of ethyl carbamate in alcoholic beverages and fermented foods (bread and cheese) have been determined (Dennis et al. 1989). Microbial analyses have been conducted on fermented food and beverages (Cosentino et al. 2001). The control of food-borne pathogens during sufu fermentation has been investigated (Shi and Fung 2000). The stability of stored fermented foods e.g. gari has been studied (Sanni 1996). Hopefully all this research will help food fermentation become a thriving industry which will introduce more varieties of food and also improve human health.
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