Innovation in the starter culture industry is stimulated by possibility and need. New possibilities are constantly being opened up by rapid developments in the biological sciences. Our ability to understand complex biological systems has been transformed through the invention of methods to accumulate and analyze large amounts of data. The genomes of more than 100 microorganisms have now been completely sequenced, including several pathogenic bacteria as well as some of the microorganisms used in food fermentations [e.g., Saccharomyces cerevisiae (47) and Lactococcus lactis (48)]. Safe methods for the genetic engineering of food microorganisms have been developed for the most important species, and this has opened a wide range of possibilities for the improvement of yeast and lactic acid bacteria metabolism (49-54). The practical applications of the modern methods in Europe, however, have been delayed due to public resistance to modern biotechnology.
The other factor stimulating innovation is the need for new products. There is a big need for new methods to preserve crops after harvest, to reduce spoilage before consumption. This need is very strong in the less developed world, but also in the highly developed countries do we need better methods to extend shelf life and avoid spoilage. Food fermentation and bioprotective cultures can solve some of these problems. Probiotic cultures with specific health benefits, with defined modes of action, is also an area where the market would welcome new products. These two examples are specific areas under the more general need for new cultures or new culture formulations in order to expand the use of beneficial microorganisms in food.
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