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Under the microscope: fermented foods

This month: fermented foods

What is the definition of fermented food?
Interesting that you should ask, as 13 interdisciplinary scientists from the fields of microbiology, food science and technology, family medicine, ecology, immunology, and microbial genetics have come together to create the first international consensus definition.

What did they come up with?
“Foods made through desired microbial growth and enzymatic conversions of food components.”

Is that different to probiotics?
Yes, the authors take care to note the difference between probiotics and the live microbes associated with fermented foods. The word “probiotic”, they say, only applies in special cases where the fermented food retains live microorganisms at the time of consumption, and only when the microorganisms are defined and shown to provide a health benefit, as demonstrated in a scientific study.

Who was behind the new definition?
The consensus panel discussion was organised in 2019 by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), a non-profit organisation.

Why did they bother?
Mary Ellen Sanders, Executive Science Officer of ISAPP, said: “To date, different people have had different ideas of what constitutes a fermented food. The new definition provides a clear concept that can be understood by the general public, industry members and regulators.”

What if I want to read more?
Their paper, which has been published in Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, can be read at

Image Credit | iStock

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