The mission

The hunt begins

01 The plan

Since that one perfect germ is part of the natural microflora of cooked ham, we searched for products that smelled and tasted good after the ´best before´ date had elapsed, in which no slime or gas had developed inside the packaging, but which still contained a very high numer of micro-organisms. We took a closer look at the products that met all these criteria, examining the micro-organisms of these products. Many of them were discarded immediately because we knew they were not one of the good germs.

02 Narrowing the ranks

A total of 50 lactid acid bacteria strains were left over.

More information had to be gathered about these still completely unknown germs. In addition to testing for safety (do they meet the EFSA´s QPS criteria and are they safe for humans at high concentrations?), the effects of the individual strains on the sensory characteristics of the products were studied.

Just 5 germs remained standing.

03 The finalists

The selected 5 were thoroughly examined again: a metagenomic analysis followed.

The 5 finalists were added to cooked ham - their natural habitat - in quantities that were high enough (CFU 1x105/g) to give them an advantage in access to the available nutrient resources. The finalists had a period of 14 days of competition at a pleasant 4–7 °C to demonstrate their dominant performance.

They did this by reproducing and, as a result, driving out other bacteria (i.e., through competitive exclusion).

The race started out neck and neck, but one finalist managed to gain a growing lead over its competitors, clearly winning the battle for the cooked ham with decisive dominance of ca. 98–99 % (ca. 5x109/g).