Bacteria from baby poop can help make delicious sausages, which could transform savory meats into health foods much like probiotic yogurts, according to new research.
For millennia, cultures across the globe have relied on microbes to help create a dazzling variety of foods and drinks. The most familiar examples are the yeasts used to make wine, beer and other alcohol.
Bacteria and yeast ferment sugars in foods, generating acids, gases and alcohols. Bread gets its spongy texture from bubbles of carbon dioxide released by fermenting yeast; cheese, pickles and kimchi traditionally often get their sharp taste via fermentation as well.
In addition, many types of sausages -- including pepperoni and salami -- are made with the aid of bacterial fermentation, which helps give them their characteristic tangy flavor and, in many cases, their chewy texture and intense red color. [Poop Sausage & Pee Drinks: 7 Gross 'Human' Foods]
Fermented sausages are made from mixtures of ground meat, salt, sugar, spices and curing agents stuffed into casings. They are typically fermented by either bacteria naturally found in the raw meat or commercially available bacteria added to the meat during manufacturing. The lactic acid these fermenting bacteria produce, together with the drying of the meat, suppresses the spread of germs that would otherwise spoil the sausages.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that foods such as yogurt that contain live probiotic bacteria can have a wide variety of health benefits. For instance, these microbes could help burn away belly fat, treat depression, lower inflammation, prevent urinary-tract infections and fight infant gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation.
Scientists in Spain reasoned that probiotic bacteria could be used in fermented sausages as well.
"Probiotic fermented sausages will give an opportunity to consumers who don't take dairy products the possibility to include probiotic foods to their diet," said study co-author Anna Jofré, a food microbiologist at Catalonia's Institute of Food and Agricultural Research's (IRTA) food-safety program in Girona, Spain.
For probiotic bacteria to work, they must survive the acids in the digestive tract. As such, the researchers focused on microbes found alive in human feces.