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Danish lactic bacteria make African camel milk safe

A research project led by the Technical University of Denmark has come up with the formula for a freeze-dried starter culture that African farmers can use to make safe, fermented camel milk products.

Most of the world’s camels are located in East Africa, where they are a common dairy animal. Camel milk constitutes nearly 9% of the total milk production in Africa. The farmers sell much of the milk as a fermented product in local markets or roadside stalls.

The fermentation process happens automatically as the farmers have no cooling facilities. Given that the level of hygiene is often poor, the milk often contains pathogenic microorganisms such as E.coli or salmonella, which thrive in lukewarm milk.

Bacteria increase safety

With funding from Denmark’s development cooperation program, DANIDA, and in cooperation with University of Copenhagen, Haramaya University in Ethiopia and bioscience company Chr. Hansen, researchers from DTU succeeded in finding a way of making camel milk safer.

By isolation new strains of lactic bacteria from raw camel milk, the strains can be used in a culture that both acidifies the camel milk and kills of large amounts of various pathogenic microorganisms.

A formula for quality-controlled culture

Ten students, who spent a semester in Ethiopia, have found the formula for a freeze-dried, quality-controlled starter culture based on the bacteria.

Their experiments have shown that five liters of camel milk can make enough starter culture to produce half a million liters of safe, fermented camel milk. However, they recommend that farmers treat the milk with heat to reduce the number of pathogenic microorganisms before adding the culture.

Foodborne diseases kill more often in Africa

Countries like Denmark have an effective health system that quickly help people who get sick from something they eat or drink. However, this is different in Africa. Here, foodborne diseases and poor access to medical care can be fatal.

African researchers estimate that food poisoning kills 137,000 people on the continent annually. For Haramaya University, the project is an important element in the university’s work to develop sustainable solutions and increase food safety in Ethiopia.

Source: DTU Food