Faculty of Veterinary Science, Food Hygiene and Safety, Meat and Meat Products Research Institute, University of Extremadura, Avda. de la Universidad, s/n, Cáceres 10003, Spain. Electronic address: [Email]
Ecological conditions during ripening of dry-cured meat products favour the growth of an uncontrolled mould population that could suppose a risk of ochratoxin A (OTA) production. In this work the influence of water activity (aw), temperature and substrate composition on fungal growth and OTA production by Penicillium nordicum and Penicillium verrucosum isolated from dry-cured meat products have been studied. In addition, the relative risk of OTA presence on dry-cured meat products has been evaluated using the Risk Ranger software. Fungal growth was observed in the range of 0.99-0.90 aw and 15-25 °C being mainly temperature-dependent. P. nordicum and P. verrucosum were able to produce OTA in every substrate in these ranges of aw and temperature. The production of OTA by P. verrucosum was mainly influenced by temperature and media composition. However, P. nordicum it is affected mainly by substrate or temperature depending on the strain studied. Both species produce a large amount of OTA on dry-cured ham and on dry-cured fermented sausage "salchichón" in environmental conditions usually found throughout the ripening of these products. The Risk Ranger software reveals that the relative risk of OTA on dry-cured meat products is 75%. Thus, control measures during dry-cured meat products processing to prevent OTA risk should be established.