Fermented Foods in the Twentyfirst Century

For 10,000 years, humans have consumed fermented foods. As noted above, originally and throughout human history, fermentation provided a means for producing safe and well-preserved foods. Even today, fermented foods are still among the most popular type of food consumed. No wonder that about one-third of all foods consumed are fermented. In the United States, beer is the most widely consumed fermented food product, followed by bread, cheese, wine, and yogurt (Table 1-3). Global statistics are not available, but it can be estimated that alcoholic products head the list of most popular fermented foods in most of the world. In Asia, soy sauce production and consumption ranks at or near the top. Collectively, sales of fermented foods on a global basis exceeds a trillion dollars, with an even greater overall economic impact.

Although fermented foods have been part of the human diet for thousands of years, as the world becomes more multicultural and cuisines and cultures continue to mix, it is likely that fermented foods will assume an even more important dietary and nutritional role. Foods such as kimchi (from Korea), miso (from Japan), and kefir (from Eastern Europe) are fast becoming part

Table 1.3. U.S. production and consumption of selected fermented foodsa

Food

Production

Consumptionb

Wine

2.3 x 109 L

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