Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Controlling biogenic amines in traditional food fermentations in regional Europe (Food processing)

Project acronym: Biamfood

Title of project: Controlling biogenic amines in traditional food fermentations in regional Europe

Research area: Food processing

Contract No: 211441

EU contribution: €2 388 957

Start date: March 2008

Duration: 36 months

Status: finalised

Food fermentation is part of a global industry with a long history. The fermentation process is widely used to produce foodstuffs – such as bread, cheeses, salami, wine and beer and pickled vegetables. However, in spite of great technological advances, many companies still use traditional, experience-based techniques, strongly rooted in specific geographic regions. The famous camembert cheese from Normandy in France is an example.

Consortia of microorganisms are essential to the food fermentation process, and they determine the characteristics of the end products, such as taste and texture among others. However, they also are responsible for the production of biogenic amines (BA) that may pose serious risks to human health if ingested. Biogenic amines are a group of organic compounds that contain nitrogen and are produced by natural biological processes. The most important BAs found in food are histamine, tyramine, putrescine and cadaverine.

The presence of biogenic amines in foodstuffs presents an important problem for food safety because of the role of these compounds play in food intolerance and intoxication. Biogenic amines do not produce allergic reactions, as physiological reactions to their ingestion are not mediated by the immune system. They are in fact toxic compounds that are sometimes erroneously considered as allergic.

While the symptoms experienced by those suffering from a food allergy and food intolerance (rashes, headaches or feeling bloated) are similar, the mechanism is different. Owing to the very similar symptoms for food allergies, food intolerance and food intoxications, biogenic amine intoxication is often misdiagnosed.

The BIAMFOOD project has focused on the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) that are responsible for the production of BAs during food fermentation. This focus covered the complete food chain: from the start to the final product.

The project focused on three different fermentation processes in four different European regions. The goal was to integrate state-of-the-art production technologies and to implement scientific knowledge in the dairy, wine and cider-making industries, so as to improve product quality and at the same time reduce the health risk to the consumer.

The project team built a database of BA-producing pathways and malate/citrate decarboxylation pathways in LAB. It contains information on the host organism, coding genes, operon structure, operon context, regulatory elements, genetic element, enzyme classification and transporter classification. This cost-free database is available to fermentation industries and other interested parties wishing to identify and characterise BA-producing LAB in industrial fermentation processes. The team also developed and optimised ready-to-use techniques for identifying BA-producers and BA-content. These were tailored for use in final food products and during different stages of the fermentation process.

The project also identified regional differences in biogenic amine formation for the same product, as well as variations between different product types. The replacement of BA-producing microbiological activity by other activities may improve the organoleptic properties, such as taste and smell, of food products.

Bacterial strains and techniques were developed to minimise the content of biogenic amines in fermented foods, thus contributing to better food-quality in general, and in particular its health aspects and the biomedical implications of having BA and BA-producers in the human gastrointestinal tract.

The project bridged scientific fields and spread excellence within the fermentation industries. The results contribute to the EU policy objectives of improving the competitiveness of European industry and enhancing quality of life for European citizens.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Juke S. Lolkema

Organisation: University of Groningen, the Netherlands,


  • Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux II, France,
  • CSIC – Agencia Estatal Consejo de Investigaciones Científicas, Spain,
  • Université de Bourgogne, France,
  • Università di Foggia, Italy,
  • Instituto de Biología Moleculary Celular de Rosario, Argentina,
  • ADRIA Normandie – Association pour le développement de la recherche appliquée dans les industries agricoles et alimentaires, France,
  • Christian Hansen A/S, Denmark,
  • Inter Rhône – Interprofession des vins d’appellation d’origine controllées Côtes et vallée du Rhône, France,
  • Antonin Rodet SAS, France,
  • Cidrerie Viard SA, Bayeux, FranceBAYEUX
  • Société d’applications de recherches et de conseils Å“nologiques SAS, France,
  • Francisco Bada C.B. Cabrales, Spain
  • Coopérative Elle et Vire (Filiale Val de Vire), Condé-sur-Vire, France
  • Cantine "D'Alfonso del Sordo" S.R.L., San Severo, Italy