The popularity of fermented foods and beverages is due to their enhanced shelf-life, safety, functionality, sensory, and nutritional properties. The latter includes the presence of bioactive molecules, vitamins, and other constituents with increased availability due to the process of fermentation. Many fermented foods also contain live microorganisms that may improve gastrointestinal health and provide other health benefits, including lowering the risk of type two diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The number of organisms in fermented foods can vary significantly, depending on how products were manufactured and processed, as well as conditions and duration of storage. In this review, we surveyed published studies in which lactic acid and other relevant bacteria were enumerated from the most commonly consumed fermented foods, including cultured dairy products, cheese, fermented sausage, fermented vegetables, soy-fermented foods, and fermented cereal products. Most of the reported data were based on retail food samples, rather than experimentally produced products made on a laboratory scale. Results indicated that many of these fermented foods contained 105-7 lactic acid bacteria per mL or gram, although there was considerable variation based on geographical region and sampling time. In general, cultured dairy products consistently contained higher levels, up to 109/mL or g. Although few specific recommendations and claim legislations for what constitutes a relevant dose exist, the findings from this survey revealed that many fermented foods are a good source of live lactic acid bacteria, including species that reportedly provide human health benefits.
Keywords: fermented foods; health benefits; lactic acid bacteria; live microbes; probiotics.