Effect of weak acid preservatives on growth of bakery product spoilage fungi at different water activities and pH values

Karin Isabel Suhr, Per Væggemose Nielsen

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    Inhibition of spoilage organisms from bakery products by weak acid preservatives in concentrations of 0%, 0.003%, 0.03% and 0.3% (w/v) was investigated experimentally on a substrate media with water activity (a(w)) and pH ranging from sourdough-fermented acidic rye bread to alkaline intermediate moisture sponge cake types (a(w) 0.80-0.95, pH 4.7-7.4). Initially, rye bread conditions (a(w) 0.94-0.97 and pH 4.4-4.8) in combination with calcium propionate were investigated. Results showed that the highest concentration of propionate (0.3%) at all conditions apart from high a(w) (0.97) and high pH (4.8) totally inhibited fungal growth for a 2-week period, with the exception of Penicillium roqueforti, Penicillium commune and Eurotium rubrum. Characteristically for the major spoiler of rye bread, P. roqueforti, all three isolates tested were stimulated by propionate and the stimulation was significantly enhanced at high water activity levels. The effect of propionate on production of secondary metabolites (mycophenolic acid, rugulovasine, echinulin, flavoglaucin) was also studied, and variable or isolate dependent results were found. Subsequently, a screening experiment representing a wider range of bakery products was conducted using calcium propionate, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. The obtained data was modelled using survival analysis to determine 'spoilage-free time' for the fungi. At the low a(w) level (0.80) only Eurotium species grew within the test period of 30 days. Higher water activity levels as well as higher pH values decreased spoilage-free times of the fungi. The preservative calcium propionate was less effective than potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Food Microbiology
    Pages (from-to)67-78
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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