Contamination of apples and apple products with P. expansum and patulin causes considerable financial losses for apple growers and processors. Considerable efforts have been made to understand the conditions by which fungal pathogens such as P. expansum infect fruit and produce patulin. Fungal growth and mycotoxin production are known to result from an interaction of many factors, including the chemical and physical properties of the affected fruit crop, genetics of the fungus, environmental conditions, and preharvest, harvest, and postharvest conditions. In order to devise strategies for preventing patulin formation, more research is needed to understand how these factors separately and together can be used to prevent fungal and mycotoxin contamination. The research to date indicates that an integrated approach, including careful handling of fruit to prevent structural damage and strict hygiene in the orchard, packinghouse, storage, and processing facility, is essential for reducing P. expansum decay and patulin formation. Research also indicates that only sound fruit should be used for processed apple products. Fallen fruit should be discarded and not sold for the fresh market or used in the manufacture of processed apple products. Culling or removing damaged and moldy fruit before processing is an effective method for reducing patulin contamination of juice and cider. In addition, washing whole fruit before pressing and filtering juice have been successful at reducing patulin levels in juice products.
More research is needed to identify apple cultivars that are resistant to fungal decay, especially those cultivars that are stored for extended lengths of time. Although chemical treatments with synthetic fungicides traditionally have been used to control fungal pathogens in fruit, biological control has shown promise in preventing decay. As described in this chapter, postharvest treatment of whole apples with biological antagonists, heat, and calcium and other chemical treatments have been demonstrated as effective at reducing fungal rot. However, information is lacking on how these and other treatments affect patulin formation in fruit. As more countries have passed regulatory limits for patulin in juices and other apple products, there is an increasing need to develop analytical methods that can rapidly (< 30 minutes) quantify patulin in food.
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