The precious Andean grains: microbiology and technology of two pseudo-cereals

Place: argentina, South America
Sustainable development of small rural communities Sustainable development of small rural communities
Total Budget: € 0,00 | Period: From December 2010 To


Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), and Amaranto (Amaranthus caudatus) are dicotyledoneous plants, considering as pseudo-cereals and originating from the area between Southern Colombia to Northwest Argentina and Northern Chile, preferentially growing from 2500 mts above sea level. These crops were the foods considered the centerpiece of the Andean diet. Recently, new consumer demands have emerged for food products with improved nutritional value or health benefit, posing new challenges for the baking industry. This grains and their flours constituted an alternative to the cereals (rice, maize, sorghum and millet), having an important characteristic, the absence of gluten. The aim of this study was to improve both the sensory and baking qualities by means the fermentation of these pseudocereals rich in proteins, especially in essential amino acids.


Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore - Italy

Lead applicant

Reference Centre for Lactobacillus - Argentina

Initiative partner

National Autonomous University of Mexico - Mexico

Initiative partner

Ancestral Andean food: tradition and biodiversity for a safe nutrition. the food of the future seeded thousands of years ago

The project has focused on the revalorization of indigenous resources represented by Latin American traditional foods. The construction of this network has been based on complementary competences: the experience of Latin America institutions on local products have been supported by European researchers in the comprehension of the technological processes, raw material characteristics, home-made manufacture and local traditions concerning the organoleptic characteristics of these fermented foods. The EU institutions contributed to the cooperation providing technical support such as instruments, facilities, experienced researchers able to start the training of young scientists on molecular biology techniques.

flowchart of target activities The figure shows the flowchart of target activities in this project

New consumer demands have emerged for food products with improved nutritional value or health benefit, posing new challenges for the baking industry. Since baked goods from wheat and rye are problematic for an increasing amount of people suffering from celiac disease, there is a market for new novel bakery products produced by alternative cereals (rice, maize, sorghum and millet), or pseudocereals such as amaranth and quinoa which do not contain gluten. Moreover, pseudocereals are rich in proteins, especially in essential amino acids such as lysine, which is limited in wheat and rye flour. On the other hand, the use of such alternative flours is restricted due to their low baking quality, and sensory quality of baked products. Artisanal fermentation following the best practices of such flours may improve both the sensory and baking qualities.

Amaranth crops, Jujuy, Argentina Figura shows the Amaranth crops, Jujuy, Argentina
Quinoa and Amaranth grains The figure shows the pseudo-cereals grains
Quinoa crops Figura shows the Quinoa crops, Jujuy, Argentina

Results from the research have been transferred in novel multifunctional starter cultures that improved technologies for food safety and quality, having an impact on the consumer protection and on the trade opportunities by the compliance of the EU criteria and regulation for food safety.
Scientific highlights and research achievements:
1-μ-Andes partners were concerned about the traditional fermented food from Latin America, this
allowing the acquisition of new knowledge on microbial biodiversity in fermented food productions.
2- Participant individual expertise were shared during exchanges which were capitalized for
Laboratory techniques implementation.
3-Novel results from unknown ecological niches will be provided to the scientific community
thereby enriching the current knowledge on microbiology.

../file-system/small/ppt ../file-system/small/ppt Scientific results of Andean grains studies Power point presentation of the microbiological analysis performed during this project

The scientific and technological knowledge arising from this traditional fermented product studied in this project
constituted a benefit to share with artisanal food producers and can originate strategies to widen trade
opportunities for high quality and safe food produced in the developing countries.
The increase knowledge on the fermentation microbiota (including possibly pathogens) involved in the
production of Atole Agrio fermented products provide a clear figure of the complex microbial associations and
contribute to increase the knowledge on natural food and beverage fermentations. Guidelines document for the
product quality management and consumer protection have been provided based on the implementation of
HACCP plans for the compliance of EU regulation on food safety.

Amaranth crops, Jujuy, Argentina Figure shows researchers visiting the amaranth crop in the northwestern of Argentine

A total of 25 people comprising early researchers, experience researchers, management staff from each
participant institutions have been involved in this project. Food producers from Villahermosa, Tabasco region,
kindly partecipated in proveding samples. The scientific team was composed particularly by food microbiologists,
vegetarian chemists and biologists.
The Management Team includes the head scientists of each organizations
taking part at the project; the Coordinator of the project was a Chair Professor of Food Microbiology (Prof. Pier
Sandro Cocconcelli) while the managers of each research unit were all Professors of Food Microbiology or
Senior Researchers in the field of molecular microbiology or food science (Rosa Aznar, Carme Wacher, Atte Von
Wright, Graciela Vignolo, Carmela Belloch).

The mains milestones of this work were:

-  Setting networking and cooperation bases of partners.

-  The seasonality in the production of Andean fermented products, often influenced by bad weather conditions,


The project had no particular impact on the environmental resources.

During this project  an increase of the knowledge on the local food fermentation, with particular attention at the microbial biodiversity and traditional food and beverage processing help to the develop sustainable production processes exploiting local foods (ingredients, treatments and multifunctional starter cultures) all of this allow to standardize production, increasing trade opportunities between Latin America and EU. This project constitute a  model of mutual knowledge generation by creating a discussion space where food science experts, artisanal producers from LA countries, Food Economist and experts of consumer behavior can originate strategies to widen trade opportunities for high quality and safe food produced in the developing countries. The study of fermentation process serve as functional model for other international cooperation on traditional food.


 This Project has adopted a plan to extend the excellence and disseminate the knowledge within and outside the project with particular attention to food consumers in both EU and Latin America.

Web based solution optimize the information fluxes among partners. The website of the project has been established
Moreover, the organization of internal and international workshops helped to spread effectively the Project’s results to the partners during each µAndes meeting.

At this moment two poster presentation were submitted to FoodMicro2012 congress in Istambul

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Poster Results presented at International Food Micro 2012 congress
../file-system/small/ppt ../file-system/small/ppt Poster Results presented at International Food Micro 2012 congress