Thursday, March 3, 2011

Introduction of Single Cell Protein

The term Single Cell Protein (SCP) refers to the dried microbial cells or total protein extracted from pure microbial cell culture (Algae, bacteria, filamentous fungi, yeasts), which can be used as food supplement to humans (Food Grade) or animals (Feed grade). Most of the developing countries of the world are facing a major problem of malnutrition. Due to rapid growth in the population deficiency of protein and nutrients are seen in human food and as well as animal feed.  Single cell proteins have application in animal nutrition as: fattening calves, poultry, pigs and fish breading. In food it is used as : aroma carriers, vitamin carrier, emulsifying aids and to improve the nutritive value of baked products, in soups, in ready-to-serve-meals, in diet recipes and in the technical field in : paper processing, leather processing and as foam stabilizers.
It has been estimated that if necessary measures are not taken the malnutrition condition will lead to some major crisis in the developing countries. Therefore it is very important to increase protein production and also its availability to the population by utilizing all the available ways and also methods. The increased world demand for food and in particular feed protein spurred the search for non-conventional protein sources to supplement the available protein source. SCP production technologies arose as a promising way to solve the problem of worldwide protein shortage

Synthetic meat derived from fungus, Fusarium venenatum
Interest in microbial protein for animal fodder largely depends on production costs in relation to the prevailing price of the main market competitors, particularly soya protein and fishmeal. The reason that more microbial protein is not currently produced for fodder is due to the present low price of these conventional protein sources. However, this may change, as there have been forecasts of future shortages of soya and fishmeal.

Dietary supplement derived from algae
Rapid developments in microbial protein occured during the 1960s and 1970s. Extensive research was conducted on a wide range of microorganisms as possible alternate protein sources, motivated by large increases in the price of conventional animal feed.  SCP is not pure protein, but refers to the whole cells of bacteria, yeasts, filamentous fungi, or algae. SCP also contains carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, mineral salts and vitamins. The composition depends upon the organism and the substrate which it grows. If SCP is to be used successfully, there are five main criteria to be satisfied:

1. The SCP must be safe to eat.
2. The nutritional value dependent on the amino acid composition must be high.
3. It must be acceptable to the general public.
4. It must have the functionality, i.e. characteristics, which are found in common staple foods.
5. The economic viability of the SCP process

Protein (%)
Nucleic acid (%)
Filamentous fungi

Table shows Essential amino acid content of the cell protein in comparison with several reference proteins (grams of amino acid per 100 grams of protein)

Israelidis, C. (n.d.). NUTRITION - SINGLE CELL PROTEIN, TWENTY YEARS LATER. Retrieved March 7, 2011, from

Srivastava, M.L., (2008), Fermentation Technology, Alpha Science International, Oxford

Trehan, K., (1990), Biotechnology, New Age International, New Delhi

By : Adrian & Kishan


  1. Good effort. I have some questions;
    1. How much (in RM) does the Quorn sausages cost compared to, say, Farm's Best brand.
    2. Have you tried this SCP yourself? Frankly, I don't really see such brands in local supermarkets.
    3. Would you consider these foods as "suitable for vegetarians"
    4. What do you think is the impact of waste from the production of SCP, and how to handle this?
    5. In your opinion, would there be any allergen problems or immune response effects, as some of the SCP organisms are closely-related to some pathogenic organisms, and may have similar antigens?


  2. Thank you for the questions, here's our answer:

    1. Generally, Quorn sausages are more expensive than conventional protein. The price range of Quorn products are from £1.67 (RM. 7.20) - £1.98 (RM. 9.00) in 250g, while Farm's Best sausages (340g) in malaysia (RM2.40).

    2. SCP is not limited to synthetic meat only, but also includes supplements such as spirulina, which can be bought in local stores. Another use of SCP is for animal fodder. As for spirulina tablet, some of us have tried it and just tastes like regular supplement tablet.

    3. Again, SCP includes a variety of products, some products (such as Quorn sausages) may contain eggs and milk which are not suitable for certain group of vegans. Generally, the SCP itself is considered as suitable for vegan and in fact, SCP foods are approved by Vegetarian Society.

    4. SCP itself is produced using the wastes from industrial processes, these microorganisms helps in industrial waste treatment by processing the toxic waste into safer compounds. So, the waste from SCP production is considered safe.

    5. Yes, some source of SCP may cause allergy reaction. For example : Quorn products are made from a mold, so people who are allergic to molds and penicillin (as this drug also produced from molds) may have an allergic reaction prior eating Quorn products.
    However, another source of SCP like algae does not cause allergic reaction as much as molds.

  3. Thank you for the very nice blog about SCP. I was really wondering if there is SCP industry in the UK or Europe that provides sort of training about SCP production etc. I am thinking to develop this product in my country as I am researching on cassava and willing to utilise cassava waste to produce SCP. Thank you

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  11. Are all SCP safe for human consumption, if not what are the precautions needed while doing downstream processing or generating final product?

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