Fermented milks result from the selective growth of specific bacteria in milk. These products have evolved around the world over thousands of years and are believed to have originated in the area that is now the Middle East. These products probably resulted from the need to extend the shelf life of milk in the absence of refrigeration (Kosikowski and Mistry, 1997). Storage of raw milk at ambient temperature probably led to growth of lactic acid and other bacteria. This bacterial activity produced desirable flavors, and, importantly, increased the shelf life of milk because of a high acid content. Procedures of fermented milk production were subsequently refined, the products became popular, and gradually spread to Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world. Consumption is now the highest in European countries, but these products form an important component of the diet in many other countries as well (Table 1).

Today yogurt, buttermilk, and sour cream are probably the most widely consumed fermented milk products, but there are many different types of such products that are either manufactured commercially or produced on a small scale, and sometimes in homes, for local consumption. In addition to being excellent sources of nutrients, these products have become popular because of potential health benefits, which are discussed in Chapter 10.

Table 1 World Consumption of Fermented Milks, 1998

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