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Microbial production of food


The term SCP is usually used to describe microbial cells used as a source of protein for
human and animal feed including filamentous fungi and algae.

Examples of SCP products which have reached commercial production as animal feed
ingredients are ICI’s Pruteen (a bacterial product grown on methanol), BP’s Toprina (a yeast
grown on n-alkanes) and a fungal product of the Finnish Pekilo process. The last process uses
suiphite liquour as a substrate, a waste product of paper manufacture.


The term MBP is used to indicate a product which contains residual substrates along with
microbial product.

Sources of raw materials:

There may be two types of substrates for SCP production

 Inedible substrate
 Edible substrate (e.g. Soy sauce , card , temphe etc )

Inedible substrate: Microorganisms have to be separated from the substrate. They can be
divided into following two types:

i. Fossil carbon sources:

 High energy source

 May be liquid hydrocarbon (e.g. n-paraffin , petroleum) , gaseous hydrocarbons (e.g.
methane, propane and butane) Or alcohols (e.g. methanol , ethanol)

ii. Renewable sources:

The materials that make up waste should normally be recycled back into the ecosystem. For

 Agricultural wastes : Straw , bagasse , citric wastes , whey , olive and date waste ,
 Industrial wastes : Fruit pulp , waste water from confectionary and canning industry
 Animal manure
 Sewage

Industrial production of SCP from fossil Carbon sources

Substrates Microorganisms
Gas oil Candida tropicalis
n-paraffin Candida tropicalis , C lipolytica , C maltosa
Metahnol Methylophilus methylotrophus , Methylomonas clara
Methane Pseudomonas methylotropha , Methylococcus

SCP from renewable materials

Substrates Microorganisms
Molasses Candida utilis
Molasses’s starch Corynebacterium melassecola
Lactose Brevibacterium lactofermentum
Starch hydrolysate Fusarium graminearum
Corn waste Trichoderma viride
Sulphite liquor Paecilomyces varioti
Whey Kluyveromyces fragilis
Confectionary wastes Candida utilis

The advantage of using available organic wastes for SCP production

1. Reduces environmental pollution

2. Most organic wastes are available at low cost in most countries, thus ensuring
independence in supply
3. The wastes are upgraded in energy and protein level
4. Guards against a protein shortage in a community that may be largely dependent on
5. Allows for technological innovation which can often be transferred to developing
6. Many of the wastes such as cellulose and whey already form accepted parts of animal
diet and will avoid the acceptability problems of other unusual wastes e.g. human
wastes and fossil fuels

Advantages of using microbes for SCP production

 Microorganisms can grow at remarkably rapid rates under optimum conditions ; some
microbes can double their mass every 0.5 to 1 hour
 Microorganisms have relatively high protein content (35 to 80 % proteins in terms of
dry weight) and the nutritional value of the proteins is good.
 Microorganisms can grow on a wide range of raw materials, in particular low-value
wastes and can also use plant derived cellulose.
 Strains with high yield and good composition can be selected and produced relatively
 Microorganisms can be grown in vast numbers in relatively small continuous
fermentation processes, using relatively small land area.
 Microbial production is independent of seasonal and climatic variations except algae
(need sunlight for photosynthesis)
 Microorganisms are more easily modified genetically than plants and animals.

The desirable properties of microbes of SCP production

Microorganisms that are to be grown as protein source for animal and human food must have
certain basic properties. These include -

i. Absence of pathogenicity and toxicity: The organisms should also not contain or produce
toxic or carcinogenic materials.

ii. Protein quality and content: The amount of protein in the organisms should not only be
high but should contain as much as possible of the amino acids required by man.

iii. Digestibility and organoleptic qualities: The organism should not only be digestible, but
it should possess acceptable taste and aroma.

iv. Growth rate: It must grow rapidly in a cheap, easily available medium.

v. Adaptability to unusual environmental conditions: In order to eliminate contaminants

and hence reduce the cost of production, environmental conditions which are antagonistic to
possible contaminants are often advantageous. Thus, strains which grow at low pH conditions
or at high temperature are often chosen.

MBP grown on edible substrates: the indigenous fermented foods

Disadvantages of MBP production on inedible substrates

Production of MBP on inedible substrates is not without its problem. If the substrate is
methanol, N-alkanes or even dilute starch, the MBP cells must be recovered from the
substrate. Other problems with MBP/ SCP production include the following:

1. High capital cost for MBP factory

2. Requirements for large quantities of substrate at low cost.

3. Requirement for oxygenation in large fermentors

4. Finally microbial cells (MBP) harvested and separated from the substrate are generally not
foods in themselves. They require further processing and addition of fats and other flavorings

5. Rupture and fractionation of MBP cells

6. Functional properties of MBP proteins e.g. flavor, color, solubility, viscocity etc

7. Nutritional value of MBP proteins.

Nutritional value depends on

 The type of microorganism

 The species and strain
 The condition of growth , etc

8. Flavor and texture acceptability of MBP proteins to the consumers