SCOPE FOR IMPROVEMENT OF FERMENTED FOODS
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Indigenous fermented foods are produced at the household level in a majority of African countries. Increasing industrialization and urbanisation trends in these countries will however dictate the need for larger scale production of fermented foods of consistent quality. Additionally, variation of the quality attributes of these foods to meet the demands of the sophisticated and varied palates of industrialized communities will eventually be required.
Upgrading the production of fermented foods from the household to the industrial level will necessitate several critical steps:
1. Isolation and identification of the microorganisms associated with the fermentations
Microorganisms associated with indigenous fermentations need to be isolated, properly identified and preserved preferably in a recognised culture collection for future use.
2. Determination of the role(s) of the microorganism(s)
The biochemical role(s) of microorganisms associated with food fermentations needs to be determined through chemical analysis of products released by the microorganisms under controlled laboratory conditions.
3. Selection and genetic improvement of microorganisms
Microorganisms responsible for effecting important changes in the food during fermentation should be selected and subjected to genetic improvement geared toward maximising desirable quality attributes in the food and the limiting any undesirable attributes.
4. Improvement in process controls for the manufacture of fermented foods
Improvements in the quality and quantity of fermented foods may be achieved by manipulating environmental factors such as temperature, moisture content, aeration, pH, acidity etc. which influence the activity of microorganisms during the fermentation process.
5. Improvement in the quality of raw materials used in the production of fermented foods
Both the quality and the quantity of fermented foods may be improved by choosing raw materials other than those traditionally used for their production.
6. Laboratory simulation of the fermented foods
Prior to pilot scale production, and (ideally) after all the five stages above have been well studied, fermented products may be produced under laboratory conditions. Laboratory simulation of fermented foods will involve the production of fermented foods by innoculating microbial isolates having desirable properties, into raw materials.
7. Pilot stage production
The pilot stage is the first clear departure from small scale production and should be based on the result of laboratory experiments.
8. Production or industrial plant stage
The production stage is the culmination of all the previous efforts and should lead to the availability of food of predictable and consistent quality on a large scale.
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