We all know that bacteria can infect our food and cause a food borne infection or food borne intoxication. The entire food industry is based on pH 4.6, the pH needed to prevent the outgrowth of the worst bacteria of all, Clostridium Botulium. But who, or what infects the bacteria? Bacteria are infected by a virus called “Bacteriophage” derived from the Greek word “phagein” which means “to eat”. They are commonly referred to as just “phage”. Bacteriophage does its damage by attacking a bacteria cell, splitting it open, incorporating itself into the bacteria’s DNA and basically causing a series of biological functions that causes total cell destruction.
I first learned about phage in 1996 while working at a yogurt company somewhere in Texas. Every so often we would hear about a “phage” problem. The strains of lactobacillus and acidophilus had been infected and now the set cup yogurt had been sitting in the incubator for 9 hour and no fermentation was taking place. The plant had to be cleaned, and the contaminated product tossed out. Bacteriophage in yogurt was always a grave situation!
Which is why I found it rather interesting in an ironic way, that Fage my favorite brand of Greek yogurt has chosen to name their product after the very virus that is their industrial arc enemy. When I googled yogurt and Phage, the first site that came up was the website www.fageusa.com . Fage yogurt is super thick due to their unique straining process (explained rather vaguely in step three on their website manufacturing description
), it takes 4 lbs of milk to make only 1 lb of Fage due to the straining out of all the liquids. Fage is only sold in its natural fermented milk state. It’s extremely tangy and has a deceptively full fat flavor due to their unique straining process.
There were lots of other Greek products at the fancy food show including Lykovouno Greek olive oil, an award winning olive oil that is owned by a local San Francisco dermatologist who told me that if I use it as a moisturizer it will slow down the aging process. There was also lots of PDO (protected designated of Origin) feta cheese from Mevgal, the third largest Greek dairy company that regularly exports to the U.S. They make feta, manouri, goat cheese, kasseri, kefalograviera, graviera, kefalotyri and myzithra. I wrote about Greek food back in 2007 and am excited that it continues to steadily permeate the U.S. food market .
In a few weeks I will have a guest writer Artemis Kohas discuss Mastiha, the all natural antioxidant, anti-inflamitory, anti-bacterial Greek resin that only seeps from the evergreen bushes found in the southern part of the Greek island of Chios. It has thousands of culinary and medicinal uses. I have a few boxes in my pantry that I picked up during the World of Flavors conference 2008 and I am anxious to learn what I can do with it. I have been told that it is worth its weight in gold! Stay tuned!