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Posted (edited)

My friend says that the vitamin B12 produced as a food supplement is harvested from animals. I pointed out that online articles indicate that B12 is produced through fermentation. He claims that the strains used for fermentation get "old" and have to be replaced by new ones harvested from animals. I'm skeptical about that. Who's right? If you could provide sources so I could prove it to my friend (assuming I'm right), I would appreciate it. Thanks. 

Edited by Martoonsky

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3 hours ago, Martoonsky said:

My friend says that the vitamin B12 produced as a food supplement is harvested from animals. I pointed out that online articles indicate that B12 is produced through fermentation. He claims that the strains used for fermentation get "old" and have to be replaced by new ones harvested from animals. I'm skeptical about that. Who's right? If you could provide sources so I could prove it to my friend (assuming I'm right), I would appreciate it. Thanks. 

Here:

Quote

Industrial production of B12 is achieved through fermentation of selected microorganisms.[88]  Streptomyces griseus, a bacterium once thought to be a fungus, was the commercial source of vitamin B12 for many years.[109] The species Pseudomonas denitrificans and Propionibacterium freudenreichii subsp. shermanii are more commonly used today.[88] 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_B12#Industrial

And:

Quote

Pseudomonas denitrificans is a Gram-negative aerobic bacterium that performs denitrification. It was first isolated from garden soil in Vienna, Austria. It overproduces cobalamin (vitamin B12), which it uses for methionine synthesis[1] and it has been used for manufacture of the vitamin.[2] 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudomonas_denitrificans

Quote

Propionibacterium freudenreichii is a gram-positive, non-motile bacterium that plays an important role in the creation of Emmental cheese, and to some extent, Jarlsberg cheese, Leerdammer and Maasdam cheese. Its concentration in Swiss-type cheeses is higher than in any other cheese. Propionibacteria are commonly found in milk and dairy products, though they have also been extracted from soil. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propionibacterium_freudenreichii

So no harvesting from animals there.

 

Show this to your friend: https://xkcd.com/285/ 

The ball is in their court to provide some evidence.

 

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, friend is mistaken. The Cobalt, in Cobalmin(B12), needs to be available though that's common enough(soil being the ultimate source).

Edited by Endy0816

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My friend claims that the strains used by industry for production by fermentation get "old" (contaminated, genetically mutated) and need to be replenished regularly from animal sources. He also claims that this means that the necessary quantity requires us to harvest significant quantities from animals that wouldn't be available in the same quantity from non-animal sources.

I suspect that labs should be able to maintain their strains with minimal need to look for new sources. Some confirmation of this (that I can reference) is what I'm looking for.

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6 minutes ago, Martoonsky said:

My friend claims that the strains used by industry for production by fermentation get "old" (contaminated, genetically mutated) and need to be replenished regularly from animal sources. He also claims that this means that the necessary quantity requires us to harvest significant quantities from animals that wouldn't be available in the same quantity from non-animal sources.

I suspect that labs should be able to maintain their strains with minimal need to look for new sources. Some confirmation of this (that I can reference) is what I'm looking for.

Where are your friend's citations?

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2 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

Where are your friend's citations?

He's looking. The problem is, I don't have any citations either. :-)

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OK. Next to total ignorant here, but...

How can vitamins get genetically mutated? They contain no nucleic acids.

They would be degraded by temperature, ionizing radiation and such. And it would have nothing to do with the source.

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Sorry, I wasn't being specific enough. I was talking about the bacteria that produce the B12.

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2 hours ago, Martoonsky said:

My friend claims that the strains used by industry for production by fermentation get "old" (contaminated, genetically mutated) and need to be replenished regularly from animal sources. He also claims that this means that the necessary quantity requires us to harvest significant quantities from animals that wouldn't be available in the same quantity from non-animal sources.

I suspect that labs should be able to maintain their strains with minimal need to look for new sources. Some confirmation of this (that I can reference) is what I'm looking for.

That is nonsense. First, as background, animals cannot synthesize B12, only bacteria (and archaea) can do that. In fact a lot of bacteria, including free-living ones are able to synthesize it de novo, as they also need it. From there it follows that folks do not need to harvest animals at all. And in fact some of the first production strains were soil bacteria including Sinorhizobium meliloti and Pseudomonas denitrificans but there have been efforts to make E. coli a better production strain (I am not sure how far they got). Feel free to look up the species together with industrial B12 fermentation, it should give you plenty of publications.

The second part that your friend does not get is that in industrial fermentation you want to have a pure culture whenever possible to ensure a clean product. So if you have a production strain isolated, you keep a stock of them from which you can create fresh cultures whenever needed. Isolating a pure strain from a mixed sample (such as isolated from an animal) is a ton of work and may end up not giving you a working culture so there is no reason to do so. From what you have written it is rather obvious that your friend has spent no time reading up on how industrial fermentation actually works.

The use of animal microbiota is something done in traditional food production (e.g. using cow rennet). However the key enzyme (chymosin) can now be produced industrially, without killing cows (again by using bacteria produce them).

 

 

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On 8/26/2020 at 10:25 AM, Martoonsky said:

He claims that the strains used for fermentation get "old" and have to be replaced by new ones harvested from animals.

That seems unlikely given that breweries have been (carefully) using the same strains of yeasts for decades or more.

However, if you needed a fresh supply, there's no need to trouble the animals, just wait a while with a  bucket.

 

https://www.jstor.org/stable/25031792?seq=1
 

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3 hours ago, Martoonsky said:

He's looking. The problem is, I don't have any citations either. :-)

Go look at the first response to your OP. Strange posted several citations.

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@CharonY Thank you for your response. Neither I nor my friend know much about industrial fermentation. In fairness to my friend, I have been doing a fair bit of searching recently and haven't found a definitive refutation of his idea. I find no mention anywhere of strains going bad or of a requirement for regular harvesting from animals, but as they say, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

@zapatos I had already read the Wikipedia articles. They say that certain species and fermentation are used, but don't give enough information about the process to prove my friend wrong. 

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https://www.google.com/search?q=b12+animal+products

"Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are a readily available source of vitamin B12 with high bioavailability for vegetarians [5,13-15]. Some nutritional yeast products also contain vitamin B12. Fortified foods vary in formulation, so it is important to read the Nutrition Facts labels on food products to determine the types and amounts of added nutrients they contain."

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/

Below quoted part there is table with animal products with micrograms per serving listed.

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I will first say that I am highly ignorant about how the food processing industry works, but here's how I envision it.
A lab obtains a specimen of the desired species of bacteria from whatever source. They use whatever techniques are required to identify and isolate the species they wish to market. In a very controlled environment, they culture a large quantity of the target species with high purity. 
This high purity quantity is sold to a food manufacturer, which handles it carefully to avoid contamination and stores it in an environment that will preserve it effectively. Small quantities of this are used to grow large quantity cultures which are used to create vitamin B12 in marketable quantities. Eventually these cultures will spoil from contamination and need to be discarded. A new culture is then started from another small sample from the high purity quantity in storage. 
Eventually, the high purity quantity will be used up and a new quantity must be purchased from the lab. The lab, with its ability to test and isolate, should be able to keep the target species growing for as long as they like without having to bring more in from an external source.
Is there anyone with some solid knowledge of food industry procedures who can confirm, deny, or correct any of this? Thanks. 

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1 hour ago, Martoonsky said:

I will first say that I am highly ignorant about how the food processing industry works, but here's how I envision it.
A lab obtains a specimen of the desired species of bacteria from whatever source. They use whatever techniques are required to identify and isolate the species they wish to market. In a very controlled environment, they culture a large quantity of the target species with high purity. 
This high purity quantity is sold to a food manufacturer, which handles it carefully to avoid contamination and stores it in an environment that will preserve it effectively. Small quantities of this are used to grow large quantity cultures which are used to create vitamin B12 in marketable quantities. Eventually these cultures will spoil from contamination and need to be discarded. A new culture is then started from another small sample from the high purity quantity in storage. 
Eventually, the high purity quantity will be used up and a new quantity must be purchased from the lab. The lab, with its ability to test and isolate, should be able to keep the target species growing for as long as they like without having to bring more in from an external source.
Is there anyone with some solid knowledge of food industry procedures who can confirm, deny, or correct any of this? Thanks. 

CharonY has more than enough knowledge for your topic.

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6 hours ago, Martoonsky said:

I will first say that I am highly ignorant about how the food processing industry works, but here's how I envision it.
A lab obtains a specimen of the desired species of bacteria from whatever source. They use whatever techniques are required to identify and isolate the species they wish to market. In a very controlled environment, they culture a large quantity of the target species with high purity. 
This high purity quantity is sold to a food manufacturer, which handles it carefully to avoid contamination and stores it in an environment that will preserve it effectively. Small quantities of this are used to grow large quantity cultures which are used to create vitamin B12 in marketable quantities. Eventually these cultures will spoil from contamination and need to be discarded. A new culture is then started from another small sample from the high purity quantity in storage. 
Eventually, the high purity quantity will be used up and a new quantity must be purchased from the lab. The lab, with its ability to test and isolate, should be able to keep the target species growing for as long as they like without having to bring more in from an external source.
Is there anyone with some solid knowledge of food industry procedures who can confirm, deny, or correct any of this? Thanks. 

That is a pretty good description. Some corrections, though. Most (large) manufacturers will isolate and use their own strains rather than buying them. The strain becomes part of their business portfolio and some larger companies also engage (often in collaboration with university researchers) to improve their production strain for their fermentation process. But yes, once strains have been selected (or created) for production, they are first cultivated in moderately sized batches and frozen as backup and the rest is used for the actual fermentation. Depending on type fermentation and species a cycle can be fairly long, before they need to start over from scratch. Typically they never run out of their production strain (they better not, else their process will break down) as they can propagate them close to indefinitely. Also note that a fermenter does not spoil easily as such per se if run in continuous mode. Here the growth conditions (e.g. pH, cell density, nutrient availability) are kept constant so the bacteria stay happy for a very long time. Whereas in batch mode, the medium gets depleted relatively fast and needs to be renewed periodically.

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