Indexed on: 30 Mar '11Published on: 30 Mar '11Published in: International Journal of Food Microbiology
The aim of this study was to determine the effects of water activity (a(w)) (0.92-0.98), temperature (5-45 °C) and incubation time (5-60 days) on growth and ochratoxin A (OTA) production by Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus carbonarius on maize kernels using a simple method. Colony diameters of both strains at 0.92 a(w) were significantly lower than those at 0.96 and 0.98 a(w) levels. The optimum growth temperature range for A. niger was 25-40 °C and for A. carbonarius 20-35 °C. A. niger produced OTA from 15 to 40 °C, and the highest OTA level was recorded at 15 °C. The concentration of OTA produced at 0.92 a(w) was significantly lower than those at 0.96 and 0.98 a(w). A. carbonarius produced OTA from 15 to 35 °C and the maximum concentration was achieved at 15 °C, although not differing statistically from the concentration detected at 20 °C. At 0.98 a(w) the OTA concentration was significantly higher than at 0.96 and 0.92 a(w). Our results show that maize supports both growth and OTA production by A. niger and A. carbonarius. The studied strains were able to produce OTA in maize kernels from the fifth day of incubation over a wide range of temperatures and water availabilities. Although the limit of quantification of our method was higher than that required for the analysis of OTA in food commodities, it has proved to be a useful and rapid way to detect OTA production by fungi inoculated onto natural substrates, in a similar way as for pure culture. Both species could be a source of OTA in this cereal in temperate and tropical zones of the world.