Microbes have nourished humans for centuries, generating cheese, bread, wine and beer, tempeh, and soy sauce. And yet, from the moment of harvest, we humans compete with microbes for our food. Microbes from the food’s surface or from the air colonize food, and their uncontrolled growth can render the food rancid or putrid. Historically, the need for food storage and preservation has led to practices such as drying, smoking, and adding spices, all of which retard microbial growth.
The principles of food microbiology have been extended to a much broader field of industrial microbiology. Industrial microbiology includes the development of microbial products such as antibiotics and enzymes, as well as transgenic microbes that produce human proteins such as insulin and growth hormones.