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Development of a Polymerase Chain Reaction-Based Assay for the Detection of Alternaria Fungal Contamination in Food Products

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Alternaria sp. are important fungal contaminants of vegetable, fruit, and grain products, including Alternaria alternata, a contaminant of tomato products. To date, the Howard method, based on microscopic observation of fungal filaments, has been the standard examination for inspection of tomato products. We report development of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based method for detection of Alternaria DNA. PCR primers were designed to anneal to the internal transcribed regions ITS1 and ITS2 of the 5.8S rRNA gene of Alternaria but not to other microbial or tomato DNA. We demonstrate use of the PCR assay to detect Alternaria DNA in experimentally infested and commercially obtained tomato sauce and tomato powder. Use of the PCR method offers a rapid and sensitive assay for the presence of Alternaria DNA in tomato products. The apparent breakdown of DNA in tomato sauce may limit the utility of the assay to freshly prepared products. The assay for tomato powder is not affected by storage time.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Food Engineering and Biotechnology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel; and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0321, USA 2: Department of Food Engineering and Biotechnology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel; and Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0321, USA

Publication date: October 1, 1999

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