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The presence of mold in food, although necessary for production, can involve the presence of secondary metabolites, which are sometimes toxic. Penicillium roqueforti is a common saprophytic fungus but it is also the essential fungus used in the production of Roquefort cheese and other varieties of blue cheese containing internal mold. The study was conducted on industrial batches of Penicillium roqueforti starters used in the production of the Gorgonzola cheese, with the aim to verify the production of secondary metabolites. Nine Penicillium roqueforti strains were tested. The presence of roquefortine C, PR toxin and mycophenolic acid was tested first in vitro, then on bread-like substrate and lastly in vivo in nine cheese samples produced with the same starters and ready to market. In vitro, only Penicillium out of nine produced roquefortine C, four starters showed mycophenolic acid production, while no significant amounts of PR toxin were detected. In the samples grown on bread-like substrate, Penicillium did not produce secondary metabolites, likewise with each cheese samples tested. To protect consumers’ health and safety, the presence of mycotoxins needs to be verified in food which is widely consumed, above all for products protected by the protected denomination of origin (DOP) label (i.e. a certificate guaranteeing the geographic origin of the product), such as Gorgonzola cheese.
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