The use of molds as starter cultures for fermentation of meat is mainly concentrated in such European regions as Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Hungary. Penicillium spp. are mainly involved in the fermentation, and the meat products produced typically are sausages and ham. Common molds used for fermentation of meat include Penicillium nalgiovense, Penicillium chrysogenum, and Penicillium camemberti (8,138,139) but also other species might be used. Penicillium commune and Penicillium olsonii have been reported to be involved in the spontaneous fermentation of Spanish meat sausage (140), Penicillium aurantiogriseum in the fermentation of dry sausages (141), and a variety of Penicillium spp. including Penicillium aurantiogriseum, P. chrysogenum, P. commune, Penicillium echinulatum, and Penicillium expansum have been found during spontaneous fermentation of dry-cured Iberian ham (142). For the latter, nontoxigenic strains of P. chrysogenum have been recommended as starter cultures (142). Eurotium rubrum and Penicillium solitum were found to be the dominant species during production of traditional Tyrolean smoked and cured ham (143). Aspergillus spp. are not used as starter cultures for meat fermentation but may be observed during production of cured ham, where they can grow at low water activity.
Besides influencing the appearance, molds contribute to the characteristic aroma and flavor of the product by production of extracellular proteinases and lipases (144). Also, molds inhibit the growth of unwanted microorganisms and have an antioxidative effect. Strains of both P. chrysogenum and P. nalgiovense are known penicillin producers, and the latter, at least, has been shown to be able to produce penicillin when growing on meat surfaces and to secrete it into the product (145). Therefore, starter cultures of molds must be carefully analyzed by both chemical and biological tests to ensure that they do not form either penicillin or mycotoxins in the product (139).
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