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Nyoman S. Antara, Ph.D.

Professor on Agroindustrial Technology

Laboratory of Bio-Industry
Faculty of Agricultural Technology

Numerous fermented foods are consumed around

the world
Each nation has its own types of fermented food
The methods of producing many of the worlds
fermented foods are unknown and came about by
Some of the more obvious fermented fruit and
vegetable products are the alcoholic beverages beers and wines
Several more fermented fruit and vegetable
products arise from lactic acid fermentation

The most common groups of micro-organisms

involved in food fermentations are:


Several bacterial families are present in foods,

the majority of which are concerned with food
The most important bacteria in desirable food
fermentations are the lactobacillaceae which
have the ability to produce lactic acid from
Other important bacteria, especially in the
fermentation of fruits and vegetables, are the
acetic acid producing acetobacter species.

Yeasts and yeast-like fungi are widely distributed in

Yeasts can have beneficial and non-beneficial effects in
The most beneficial yeasts in terms of desirable food
fermentation are from the Saccharomyces family,
especially S. cerevisiae.
Yeasts are unicellular organisms that reproduce
asexually by budding.
In general, yeasts are larger than most bacteria.
Yeasts play an important role in the food industry as
they produce enzymes that favour desirable chemical
reactions such as the leavening of bread and the
production of alcohol and invert sugar.

Moulds are also important organisms in the food

industry, both as spoilers and preservers of foods.
Certain moulds produce undesirable toxins and
contribute to the spoilage of foods
However, others impart characteristic flavours to
foods and others produce enzymes, such as
amylase for bread making, and ripening and
flavour of cheeses.
Moulds are aerobic and therefore require oxygen
for growth.
They also have the greatest array of enzymes, and
can colonise and grow on most types of food

The changes that occur during fermentation of foods

are the result of enzymic activity.
Enzymes are complex proteins produced by living cells
to carry out specific biochemical reactions. They are
known as catalysts
Because they are proteinaceous in nature, they are
sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, pH, moisture
content, ionic strength and concentrations of substrate
and inhibitors.
Each enzyme has requirements at which it will operate
most efficiently.
In the food industry, enzymes have several roles - the
liquefaction and saccharification of starch, the
conversion of sugars and the modification of proteins.

All food fermentations are the result of more than one


For example, vinegar production is a joint effort between yeast and

acetic acid forming bacteria. The yeast convert sugars to alcohol,
which is the substrate required by the acetobacter to produce acetic

Bacteria from different species and the various microorganisms - yeast and moulds -all have their own
preferences for growing conditions, which are set within
narrow limits.
There are very few pure culture fermentations.
An organism that initiates fermentation will grow there
until its by-products inhibit further growth and activity,
and other organisms develop which are ready to take over
when the conditions become intolerable for the former ones.

It is essential with any fermentation to ensure that only

the desired bacteria, yeasts or moulds start to multiply
and grow on the substrate.
An everyday example used to illustrate this point is the
differences in spoilage between pasteurised and
unpasteurised milk.
Unpasteurised milk will spoil naturally to produce a sour tasting
product which can be used in baking to improve the texture of certain
Pasteurised milk, however, spoils (non-desirable fermentation) to
produce an unpleasant product which has to be disposed of.

Most food spoilage organisms cannot survive in either

alcoholic or acidic environments.

There are six major factors that influence the growth and
activity of micro-organisms in foods:

Oxygen concentration
pH, and

The food supply available to the micro-organisms depends

on the composition of the food on which they grow.
All micro-organisms differ in their ability to metabolise
proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Obviously, by manipulating any of these six factors, the
activity of micro-organisms within foods can be controlled.

Water is essential for the growth and metabolism

of all cells.
The form in which water exists within the food is
important as far as microbial activity is concerned free or bound.
Bound water is present within the tissue and is
vital to all the physiological processes within the
Free water exists in and around the tissues and can
be removed from cells without seriously
interfering with the vital processes. Free water is
essential for the survival and activity of microorganisms.

Bacteria require more water than yeasts, which require

more water than moulds to carry out their metabolic
Almost all microbial activity is inhibited below aw of
Most fungi are inhibited below aw of 0.7,
Most yeasts are inhibited below aw of 0.8, and
Most bacteria below aw 0.9.

Addition of salt or sugar to a food will bind free water

and so decrease the aw
Manipulation of the aw in this manner can be used to
encourage the growth of favourable micro-organisms
and discourage the growth of spoilage ones.





Highly perishable foods


Pseudomonas, Bacillus, Clostridium Foods with 40% sucrose or

perfringens and some yeasts inhibited
7% salt


Lower limit for bacterial growth.

Clostridium botulinum, Lactobacillus and
some yeasts and fungi inhibited

Foods with 55% sucrose,

12% salt.
foods (aw = 0.90-0.55)


Many yeasts inhibited

Foods with 65% sucrose,

15% salt


Lower limit for most enzyme activity Fruit syrups

Staphylococcus aureus inhibited


Lower limit for halophilic bacteria


Lower limit for

xerophilic fungi



Fruit jams




Maximum velocity of Maillard reactions


Lower limt for growth of osmophilic or Dried

xerophilic yeasts and fungi


Deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA)

becomes disordered (lower limit for life
to continue)





Dried foods (aw=0-0.55)


Maximum oxidation velocity


Maximum heat resistance of bacterial


Oxygen is essential to carry out metabolic activities

that support all forms of life.
Free atmospheric oxygen is utilised by some groups of
micro-organisms, while others are able to metabolise
the oxygen which is bound to other compounds such
as carbohydrates. This bound oxygen is in a reduced
Aerobes grow in the presence of atmospheric oxygen
while anaerobes grow in the absence of atmospheric
Facultative anaerobes grow in either the absence or
presence of atmospheric oxygen
Microaerophilic organisms grow in the presence of
reduced amounts of atmospheric oxygen.
Moulds do not grow well in anaerobic conditions.

Temperature required for growth 0C

Type of




General sources
of bacteria


0 to 5

15 to 20


Water and frozen



10 to 25

30 to 40

35 to 50

Pathogenic and


25 to 45

50 to 55

70 to 90

Spore forming
bacteria from soil
and water

The majority of organisms are dependent on

nutrients for both energy and growth.
Organisms vary in their specificity towards
different substrates.
Sources of energy vary from simple sugars to
complex carbohydrates and proteins.
The energy requirements of micro-organisms
are very high.
Limiting the amount of substrate available can
check their growth.

A food with a pH of 4.6 or less is termed a high acid or

acid food and will not permit the growth of bacterial
Foods with a pH above 4.6. are termed low acid and
will not inhibit the growth of bacterial spores.
By acidifying foods and achieving a final pH of less
than 4.6, most foods are resistant to bacterial spoilage.
The optimum pH for most micro-organisms is near the
neutral point (pH 7.0)
Certain bacteria are acid tolerant and will survive at
reduced pH levels - acid-tolerant bacteria include the
Lactobacillus and Streptococcus species, which play a role
in the fermentation of dairy and vegetable products.
Moulds and yeasts are usually acid tolerant and are
therefore associated with spoilage of acidic foods.

Micro-organisms vary in their optimal pH

requirements for growth.
Most bacteria favour conditions with a near
neutral pH (7).
Yeasts can grow in a pH range of 4 to 4.5.
Moulds can grow from pH 2 to 8.5, but favour an
acid pH.
The varied pH requirements of different groups of
micro-organisms is used to good effect in
fermented foods where successions of microorganisms take over from each other as the pH of
the environment changes.

Many chemical compounds can inhibit the

growth and activity of micro-organisms.
They do so by preventing metabolism,
denaturation of the protein or by causing
physical damage to the cell.
The production of substrates as part of the
metabolic reaction also acts to inhibit microbial