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Industrial Strain Improvement for Food Functionality

Neves, A. R., Current address: Chr. Hansen A/S

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are a functionally related group of Gram-positive bacteria known essentially for their roles in food bioprocessing. The successful biotechnological application of LAB depends to a great extent on their unique phenotypic traits, which among others include fast acidification of the medium, texture and flavour forming abilities, bioprotection, and health promoting properties. However, a highly dynamic food market and ever-changing preferences from health-conscious consumers demands constant focus on product development. Fostered by this market push, Chr. Hansen places continuous efforts into the development of new LAB strains and cultures with novel properties and superior performance for the dairy industry. In the 21st century, genetic engineering could make such tasks easier to accomplish. However, the tight requirements of regulatory agencies and the negative perception by consumers of genetically modified foods impose the exclusive use of natural strain improvement methodologies. Thus, at Chr. Hansen innovative product development includes combining classical strain improvement techniques such as random mutagenesis, dominant selection, adaptive laboratorial evolution, with the insights gained from the molecular understanding of our model systems. This approach will be illustrated with relevant example cases of strain improvement for the dairy industry.