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Int J Food Microbiol. 2012 Apr 16;155(3):158-64. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2012.01.026. Epub 2012 Feb 4.

The effect of cocoa fermentation and weak organic acids on growth and ochratoxin A production by Aspergillus species.

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Departamento de Tecnologia e Ciência de Alimentos, Centro de Ciências Rurais-CEP 97105-900, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria-UFSM, Santa Maria, RS, Brazil.


The acidic characteristics of cocoa beans have influence on flavor development in chocolate. Cocoa cotyledons are not naturally acidic, the acidity comes from organic acids produced by the fermentative microorganisms which grow during the processing of cocoa. Different concentrations of these metabolites can be produced according to the fermentation practices adopted in the farms, which could affect the growth and ochratoxin A production by fungi. This work presents two independent experiments carried out to investigate the effect of some fermentation practices on ochratoxin A production by Aspergillus carbonarius in cocoa, and the effect of weak organic acids such as acetic, lactic and citric at different pH values on growth and ochratoxin A production by A. carbonarius and Aspergillus niger in culture media. A statistical difference (ρ<0.05) in the ochratoxin A level in the cured cocoa beans was observed in some fermentation practices adopted. The laboratorial studies demonstrate the influence of organic acids on fungal growth and ochratoxin A production, with differences according to the media pH and the organic acid present. Acetic acid was the most inhibitory acid against A. carbonarius and A. niger. From the point of view of food safety, considering the amount of ochratoxin A produced, fermentation practices should be conducted towards the enhancement of acetic acid, although lactic and citric acids also have an important role in lowering the pH to improve the toxicity of acetic acid.

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