Toxinogenic fungal species can be isolated from dry cured meat products, raising the problem of the direct contamination of these foods by mycotoxins known to be carcinogenic or potent carcinogens. Because the contamination of a food by mycotoxins can be considered a balance between production and degradation, the stability of mycotoxins on dry cured meat was also investigated. This study focused on patulin, ochratoxin A, citrinin, and cyclopiazonic acid that can be produced by fungal species previously isolated from dry cured meat products sold on the French market. We demonstrated that neither patulin nor ochratoxin A was produced on dry meat by toxigenic strains, whereas relatively high amounts of citrinin and cyclopiazonic acid were found after a 16-day incubation period at 20°C (87 and 50 mg/kg, respectively). After direct contamination, the initial content of patulin rapidly decreased to become undetectable after only 6 h of incubation at 20°C. For both citrinin and ochratoxin A, the kinetics of decrease at 20°C was less rapid, and the two toxins presented half-lives of 6 and 120 h, respectively. By contrast, more than 80% of the initial contamination in cyclopiazonic acid was still found on ham after a 192-h incubation period. Toxin stability was not affected by storage at 4°C. These results suggest that growth of toxigenic strains of Penicillium has to be avoided on dry meat products.

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