Environmental Factors

Understanding the environmental conditions influencing mycotoxin production is important so that storage environments can be made unfavorable for fungal growth and toxin production. Temperature is one of the major factors that affect the shelf life of apple fruits and their rate of deterioration by fungi [60]. The optimum temperature for patulin production has been reported in the range 23 to 25°C [86,90]. Although patulin production tends to decrease as temperature is decreased, patulin can be produced at low temperatures (0 to 4°C). Consequently, refrigerated storage is not practical to inhibit totally patulin production [60,105]. Storage time affects the degree of decay since apples lose their natural resistance to infection with time [95].

Modified atmospheres can suppress both fungal growth and patulin formation in apples. Modified atmosphere storage has been used for over 30 years as a means for extending the storage life of fresh produce. A modified atmosphere of high carbon dioxide and low oxygen has been found to inhibit the growth and sporulation of some fungi and the production of such mycotoxins as aflatoxin, penicillic acid, and patulin [105-107]. Paster et al. [90] found that an atmosphere of 3% CO2 and 2% O2 completely inhibited patulin production by P. expansum at 25° C, but production occurred in atmospheres of 2% CO2 and 10 or 20% O2. Use of subatmospheric pressure, a type of modified atmosphere, to extend storage life of fresh produce was studied by Adams et al. [108] as a method for reducing growth and patulin production by P. expansum and P. patulum. This work showed that pressures as low as 160mmHg are needed to control fungal growth and patulin production. Moodley et al. [109] monitored patulin formation in whole apples stored (14 days, 25°C) in polyethylene bags with different gas combinations. They found that polyethylene, the most widely used material for retail packages of apples, inhibited toxin production in apples by 99.5% and fungal growth by 68%, even in the absence of a modified atmosphere, when compared to unpackaged apples.

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