Health Threats from Contamination of Spices Commercialized in Romania: Risks of Fungal and Bacterial Infections

Author(s): Adrian Man , Anca Mare , Felicia Toma , Augustin Curticăpean , Luigi Santacroce .

Journal Name: Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders - Drug Targets

Volume 16 , Issue 3 , 2016

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Abstract:

Background: The study of fungal contamination in food and mycotoxicoses is a priority today, both internationally and nationally. The purpose of this study is to have a general view over the quality of the most common spices that are sold in Romanian markets, by assessing the degree of fungal, bacterial and mycotoxin contamination in pepper and chili powders.

Methods: We tested four types of spices: white pepper, black pepper, sweet and hot chili powders from 12 different distributing companies, summing a total of 35 sample types. The fungal and bacterial load was assessed by Standard Plate Count, while the mycotoxin content by High-performance liquid chromatography. Environmental conditions (humidity, pH) and the selling price for each product were also followed.

Results: Fungi were observed in 72.7% of black pepper samples, 33.3% in white pepper, 30% in sweet chili and 25% in hot chili products. The most common isolated fungus was Aspergillus spp., while Rhizopus, Mucor, Fusarium, Penicillium, Absidia species were found, in smaller percentage. Four producers (44.4%) presented fungal contamination of over 10^3 CFU/g and two producers (22.2%) presented no fungal contamination in their products. Bacterial contamination was found in 85.7% of the tested products, consisting mostly in Bacillus spp. Aflatoxin B1 was present in all the tested products, mostly in black pepper (mean value 126.3 ng/g); Ochratoxin A was present in sweet chili (mean value 328 ng/g) and Zearalenone in hot chili (mean value 604 ng/g) and sweet chili (mean value 382 ng/g).

Conclusion: All spices presented either fungal contamination, mycotoxin contamination, or both. The high humidity and the high pH of spices represent favorable conditions for fungal growth. The selling price was partly related to the physic-chemical conditions and microbiological quality of the spices.

Keywords: Aflatoxin B1, food microbiology, fungi, HPLC, mycotoxins, ochratoxin A, spice contaminants, zearalenone.

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Article Details

VOLUME: 16
ISSUE: 3
Year: 2016
Page: [197 - 204]
Pages: 8
DOI: 10.2174/1871530316666160823145817
Price: $58

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