Species of the genus Bacillus are ubiquitous in foods, serving either as benign contaminants, as spoilage organisms, or occasionally as the cause of food poisoning syndromes. Strains of Bacillus subtilis, however, are also used for the production of an Asian fermented soybean product called natto (Chapter 12). These natto strains are closely related to the widely used wild-type laboratory strain, B. subtilis Marburg 168, except that the former contain several biochemical and physiological properties that are required for the natto fermentation. Specifically, the natto strains produce a capsular polysac-charide material that is responsible for the viscous texture and sweet flavor of this product.
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