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Food Microbiol. 2011 Dec;28(8):1499-504. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Aug 12.

Mycobiota of cocoa: from farm to chocolate.

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Instituto de Tecnologia de Alimentos-ITAL, C.P. 139, CEP 13070-178, Campinas, SP, Brazil.


The present work was carried out to study the mycobiota of cocoa beans from farm to chocolate. Four hundred and ninety-four samples were analyzed at various stages of cocoa processing: (i) primary stage at the farm (fermentation, drying, and storage), (ii) secondary stage at processing (testa, nibs, liquor, butter, cake and powder) and (iii) the final chocolate product (dark, milk, white and powdered) collected from retail outlets. Direct plating or dilution plating on Dichloran 18% Glycerol agar were used for cocoa beans and processed product analyses, respectively. Fungi were isolated and identified using different keys of identification. The largest numbers and diversity of fungi were observed in the samples collected at the farm, especially during drying and storage. The species with the highest occurrence among samples were: Absidia corymbifera, Aspergillus sp. nov., A. flavus, Penicillium paneum and yeasts. A total of 1132 potentially toxigenic fungi were isolated from the following species or species groups: A. flavus, Aspergillus parasiticus, Aspergillus nomius, Aspergillus niger group, Aspergillus carbonarius and Aspergillus ochraceus group. The highest percentage of toxigenic fungi was found at the drying and storage stages. The industrial processing reduced the fungal contamination in all fractions and no fungi were found in the final chocolate products. The knowledge of which fungi are dominant at each processing stage of cocoa provides important data about their ecology. This understanding leads to a reduction in fungal spoilage and mycotoxin production in this product.

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