Molds

Raw ham and some fermented sausages are still being produced according to traditional methods, that is, inoculation with the in-house mold flora. However, by this inoculation method, toxinogenic strains may be among those colonizing the surface. Many of the mycotoxins that can be detected in culture media can also be detected when the same mold species grows on sausages or raw ham (31). Molded ham is generally regarded as more hazardous than molded sausages because the casing functions as a protecting barrier for the sausages. It is, however, not yet common to employ mold starter cultures for control of surface flora on dry-cured ham. In spite of this, there are multiple reasons to employ mold starter cultures. First, the starter culture provides the sausage surface with a white covering of a desirable shade, and, second, the starter culture dominates the flora and minimizes the risk for growth of mycotoxin-producing strains. In addition, the mold culture supplies the sausages with a characteristic flavor. Positive side effects such as reduced moisture loss due to mycelial covering, antioxidative effects because of catalase activity, oxygen consumption, and reduced oxygen penetration through the mycelium are factors mentioned among other advantages of a mold culture (32). Today, all mold strains used for surface treatment of dried sausages belong to the genus Penicillium. The most frequently used strain is P. nalgiovense, but also P. chrysogenum and P. camembertii are used (16,33,34). The preference of P. nalgiovense is linked to its growth ability on dry-cured meats as well as its toxicological safety. It should nonetheless be stressed that not all P. nalgiovense strains are nontoxic (35).

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