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Int J Food Microbiol. 2009 Jan 15;128(3):491-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2008.10.020. Epub 2008 Oct 29.

Modelling of growth of aflatoxigenic A. flavus isolates from red chilli powder as a function of water availability.

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  • 1Food Technology Department, Lleida University, CeRTA-UTPV, Rovira Roure 191, 25198 Lleida, Spain.


The aim of the present work was to apply mathematical models for the prediction of growth of aflatoxigenic moulds in powdered Capsicum fruits as a function of its water availability. As prevention of fungal growth effectively conduces to prevention of mycotoxin accumulation, the development of models for prediction of growth of mycotoxigenic fungi becomes a key step in risk management. Two aflatoxigenic A. flavus from chilli powder were grown on 3% chilli powder extract agar at different water activity levels and their growth was evaluated over time in terms of colony sizes and ergosterol accumulation. Both variables were modelled over time, and the resulting parameters (growth rates and lag phases) were modelled as a function of water availability using the Rosso cardinal model. Linear logistic regression was also applied to predict the probability of growth over storage time. Both isolates showed a similar pattern of behaviour, with decreasing growth rates and increasing lag phases with decreasing water activity level. While estimation of optimum a(w) for growth was consistently around 0.97-0.99, the minimum estimated a(w) varied from 0.82 to 0.88 depending on the isolate and on the parameters used for predictions. Comparing growth rates obtained for colony size and ergosterol accumulation, a linear relationship between them could be observed. The rate of root square ergosterol/colony diameter/unit of time was 0.25-0.27. Probabilities of growth before 10 days over 90% were estimated at a(w) 0.91, while the safe period could be extended to more than 20 days (22-29 days) if water activity was decreased to an a(w)=0.87. Finally, the probability of growth is always under 50% when water availability is under a(w) 0.85, and almost null for A. flavus UdLTA 3.147. It was concluded that for safe production, storage and transport, chillies and chilli powder must be kept under 31% mc (db) (probability of growth <50%). However, growth is unlikely to occur if chilli is kept at approx. 34% for less than 10 days, or at approx. 33% for less than 20 days. Careful hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) techniques during raw material production and the subsequent stages of drying, transportation, elaboration and storage are indispensable.

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