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Int J Food Microbiol. 2003 Nov 15;88(1):41-54.

Biogenic amines in dry fermented sausages: a review.

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Dipartimento di Scienze degli Alimenti, Università degli Studi di Teramo, Mosciano Sant'Angelo, Teramo, Italy.


Biogenic amines are compounds commonly present in living organisms in which they are responsible for many essential functions. They can be naturally present in many foods such as fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, chocolate and milk, but they can also be produced in high amounts by microorganisms through the activity of amino acid decarboxylases. Excessive consumption of these amines can be of health concern because their not equilibrate assumption in human organism can generate different degrees of diseases determined by their action on nervous, gastric and intestinal systems and blood pressure. High microbial counts, which characterise fermented foods, often unavoidably lead to considerable accumulation of biogenic amines, especially tyramine, 2-phenylethylamine, tryptamine, cadaverine, putrescine and histamine. However, great fluctuations of amine content are reported in the same type of product. These differences depend on many variables: the quali-quantitative composition of microbial microflora, the chemico-physical variables, the hygienic procedure adopted during production, and the availability of precursors. Dry fermented sausages are worldwide diffused fermented meat products that can be a source of biogenic amines. Even in the absence of specific rules and regulations regarding the presence of these compounds in sausages and other fermented products, an increasing attention is given to biogenic amines, especially in relation to the higher number of consumers with enhanced sensitivity to biogenic amines determined by the inhibition of the action of amino oxidases, the enzymes involved in the detoxification of these substances. The aim of this paper is to give an overview on the presence of these compounds in dry fermented sausages and to discuss the most important factors influencing their accumulation. These include process and implicit factors as well as the role of starter and nonstarter microflora growing in the different steps of sausage production. Moreover, the role of microorganisms with amino oxidase activity as starter cultures to control or reduce the accumulation of biogenic amines during ripening and storage of sausages is discussed.

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