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Microorganisms for food

Microorganisms for food

  • In the early 1960s, scientists were looking for cheap sources of protein. They tried cultivating bacteria, fungi and other kinds of microorganisms.
  • Fusarium was the successful fungus found. It is sold commercially as QuornTM.
  • Fusarium is made up of tiny fibres called hyphae. In the fermenter in which this is grown, there are no stirrers as this would tangle and break the fibres. The hyphae are collected and heat-treated to remove the bitter-tasting substance they contain.
  • They are dried and pressed to form a fibrous substance which has a similar texture to meat.
  • Food from microorganisms have several advantages over growing crops and herding animals:
    • Microorganism populations can double in number in as little as 20 minutes which is significantly faster than growing crops or herding animals.
    • Microorganisms are easy to handle and manipulate. They don’t take up space in fields as they can be grown in fermenters.
    • Microorganisms can be grown in any part of the world, in any climate or weather, unlike crops and animals.
    • Microorganisms can grow sufficiently using waste products from other processes as food. For example, Fusarium is grown on waste material produced when flour is made from wheat grains.

Mycoprotein as a food source

  • Mycoprotein is extremely healthy as it doesn’t have saturated fat, unlike meat. This is good as saturated fat is a risk factor in heart disease.
  • The high fibre content of mycoprotein slows the rate at which glucose is absorbed from food. This stops blood glucose concentration rising rapidly after a meal.
  • This means that insulin isn’t secreted so quickly or in such large amounts. Glucose and insulin surges are thought to contribute to the risk of developing Type 1 Diabetes, so it’s possible that eating mycoprotein can reduce this risk.