This study was undertaken to determine the effectiveness of modified atmospheres and packaging materials on the growth of Penicillium expansum and patulin production in apples. Granny Smith apples were surface sterilized with 76% ethanol and inoculated with 0.1 ml of a 1.1 × 107 spore/ml P. expansum spore suspension. The apples were packaged either in polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP) and treated with three different gas combinations, viz., 58% CO2/42% N2, 48% CO2/52% N2, and 88% CO2/12% N2, and were then incubated for 14 days at 25°C. Fungal growth was monitored every 2 to 4 days by measuring radial growth from the point of inoculation. After the 14th day, apples were pulped, and patulin was extracted, purified, and quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography. PP did not inhibit fungal growth in any of the atmospheres tested, and it only inhibited patulin production in atmospheric gas and 58% CO2/42% N2. PE was very effective and inhibited fungal growth by four- or fivefold, depending on the modified atmosphere. Patulin production in PE-packaged apples was almost completely inhibited by all three gas combinations. Gas chromatographic analysis of the PE-packaged samples before and after the incubation period showed that CO2 levels dropped and N2 levels increased for all of the atmospheres tested. Our studies showed conclusively that PE is an excellent packaging material for the storage of apples since it inhibited the growth of P. expansum, thereby allowing <3.2 μg/ml of patulin to be produced, regardless of gaseous environment.

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