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Penicillium Populations in Dry-Cured Ham Manufacturing Plants

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Seven ham manufacturing plants were sampled for 1 year to assess the mycoflora present in the air and on hams, with special attention given to potential mycotoxin producers. Temperature and relative humidity were recorded in the ripening rooms. Maturing rooms held hams from 2 to 3 through 6 to 7 ripening months, and aging rooms held hams for the following 6 to 7 months, until the 14-month ripening point, when they were ready for the market. Mean temperatures and relative humidities registered during the study were 14.9°C and 62.4%, respectively, in maturing rooms and 16.3°C and 57.6% in aging rooms. Aspergilli and penicillia, potential mycotoxin producers, were isolated in all the plants from the air and the ham. Aspergilli represented 5% of the isolates, while penicillia were largely dominant, with Penicillium nalgiovense being the most represented species (around 60% of the penicillia), followed by Penicillium nordicum, with 10 and 26% of the penicillia isolated, respectively, from the air or the ham. Ochratoxin A production ability, checked in vitro at 25°C, was observed in 50% of the P. nordicum isolates obtained both from the air and the ham. Air and ham surface contamination by penicillia was greater in the ripening rooms, where higher temperatures were registered. A certain correlation was also observed between air and ham surface contamination. On the basis of this study, P. nordicum, the ochratoxin A producer that is notable on proteinaceous substrates, is normally present in ham manufacturing plants in Italy, even though not a dominant species. Further studies are necessary to clarify and ensure if dry-curing conditions minimize the potential risk of ochratoxin A formation in the product.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Via Emilia Parmense, 84, 29100 Piacenza, Italy 2: Institute of Food Science and Nutrition, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Via Emilia Parmense, 84, 29100 Piacenza, Italy 3: Stazione Sperimentale per l'Industria delle Conserve Alimentari, Viale Tanara 31/A, 43100 Parma, Italy 4: CABI Bioscience, Bakeham Lane, Egham, Surrey TW209TY, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2007

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