Commercial Bioflavors

Novel bioprocesses are now an accepted alternative source of a wide range of high-prized volatile flavors. A couple of companies advertise 100% natural compounds. Whether these were obtained by conventional physical treatments of plant (or other natural) sources, or whether they in fact originated from a bioreactor, is sometimes difficult to assess. True products of concerted bioprocesses may be di-acetyl (butter note, from starter cultures), cheese flavors, yeast products (meaty and savory notes), fatty acids and related alcohols and esters (from lipase technology or intact microorganisms), C6- and C8-alcohols and related car-bonyls (green and mushroom notes, from plant and fungal homogenates), and some specialties such as lactones, vanillin, and nootkatone from complex biosystems.

The legal definitions (and the average consumer) clearly discriminate artificial flavors against natural ones; this fact has undoubtedly contributed to the recent surge of activity in bioflavor research. The legal discrimination itself, however, must be regarded artificial, because "no compounds are made on earth other than those permitted by the laws of nature" (100). The existing legal restrictions might be challenged less by the public with its unfounded reservations than by problems to analytically distinguish natural from synthetic. Sophisticated analytical tools comprise multidimensional chiral gas chromatography, high resolution NMR-spectroscopy, and isotope ratio mass spectroscopy (30,81). Despite this selection of analytical options, some volatile compounds are still difficult to differentiate.

Regardless of the actual legal situation in a country, the superiority of biocatalysts to generate complex, sensitive, and chiral molecules is more and more recognized in organic synthesis. The classical field of food biotechnology will continue to profit from modern developments in gene recombination and delivery, bioreactor and sensor design, on-line control, and related techniques. The improvement of fungal strains and plant cultivars is still restricted by several fundamental scientific and applied hurdles. The use of eucaryotic and mitochondrial genome fragments and the chromosomal integration of rDNA characterize lines of current research. Special emphasis should be put on safety testing of food generated by genetically manipulated strains, particularly if these are to remain in the consumed products (101).

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