Microbiota in foods from Inuit traditional hunting

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The foods we eat contain microorganisms that we ingest alongside the food. Industrialized food systems offer great advantages from a safety point of view, but have also been accused of depleting the diversity of the human microbiota with negative implications for human health. In contrast, artisanal traditional foods are potential sources of a diverse food microbiota. Traditional foods of the Greenlandic Inuit are comprised of animal-sourced foods prepared in the natural environment and are often consumed raw. These foods, some of which are on the verge of extinction, have not previously been microbiologically characterized. We mapped the microbiota of foods stemming from traditional Inuit land-based hunting activities. The foods included in the current study are dried muskox and caribou meat, caribou rumen and intestinal content as well as larval parasites from caribou hides, all traditional Inuit foods. This study shows that traditional drying methods are efficient for limiting microbial growth through desiccation. The results also show the rumen content of the caribou to be a highly diverse source of microbes with potential for degradation of plants. Finally, a number of parasites were shown to be included in the biodiversity of the assessed traditional foods. Taken together, the results map out a diverse source of ingested microbes and parasites that originate from the natural environment. These results have implications for understanding the nature-sourced traditional Inuit diet, which is in contrast to current day diet recommendations as well as modern industrialized food systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0227819
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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