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Food Microbiology
Vol. 69, 2018, Pages: 89-95

Sea salts as a potential source of food spoilage fungi

Megan N.Biango-Daniels, Kathie T.Hodge

Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, School of Integrative Plant Science, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, Cornell University, 334 Plant Science Building, 236 Tower Road, Ithaca, NY 14853-5904, USA.

Abstract

Production of sea salt begins with evaporation of sea water in shallow pools called salterns, and ends with the harvest and packing of salts. This process provides many opportunities for fungal contamination. This study aimed to determine whether finished salts contain viable fungi that have the potential to cause spoilage when sea salt is used as a food ingredient by isolating fungi on a medium that simulated salted food with a lowered water activity (0.95 aw). The viable filamentous fungi from seven commercial salts were quantified and identified by DNA sequencing, and the fungal communities in different salts were compared. Every sea salt tested contained viable fungi, in concentrations ranging from 0.07 to 1.71 colony-forming units per gram of salt. In total, 85 fungi were isolated representing seven genera. One or more species of the most abundant genera, AspergillusCladosporium, and Penicillium was found in every salt. Many species found in this study have been previously isolated from low water activity environments, including salterns and foods. We conclude that sea salts contain many fungi that have potential to cause food spoilage as well as some that may be mycotoxigenic.

Keywords: Sea salt, Fungal spoilage, Ingredient safety, Filamentous fungi.

 
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