Yeasts and filamentous fungi were traditionally employed in the production of alcoholic beverages and fermented foods over centuries (Hui and Khachatourians 1995; Rajak 2000). Yeasts (mainly Saccharomyces) have been used worldwide for brewing and baking for thousands of years. Likewise, filamentous fungi have been traditionally used for preparing mold-ripened cheeses (mainly Penicillium spp.) in Europe and soybean-based fermented foods (mainly Aspergillus spp.) in the Orient. On the other hand, edible mushrooms (such as Agaricus) have been used worldwide for direct consumption since times immemorial (Hudler 1998; Pointing and Hyde 2001; Rajak 2000; Singh and Aneja 1999). With passing time, these fermentation techniques were scaled up and made more efficient with respect to engineering theories and practices. Main outcomes of the evolution of food processing and production activities, have been the introduction of interdisciplinary natural and engineering concepts, for example, better equipment design, heat and mass transfer systems, feedstock supplementation system, product recovery, effluent and waste management (Thassitou and Arvanitoyannis 2001, for an extended coverage see: this volume, chapter by Schliephak et al.), computerization and automation, and finally hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP) and quality assurance. Ancillary to the above developments has been the area of food packaging storage, transportation, and distribution system design. Overall, there has been incredible integration of food science, microbiological, engineering, and industrial R&D activities.
Fungi, because of their unique mycelial structures have challenged bioengineers to reinvent fermenters and downstream processing instruments. Basic research aimed at better fungal uses for food production have synergistically aided many other aspects of fungal biotechnology from life sciences molecules to a variety of polymer sciences. More recently advances in natural science and engineering have led to the application of biosensors; computer control, logistics, and real time data collection and analysis; on line analytical instrumentation; and the use of new materials for processing.
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