Fungi have an important role in the production of dry-cured meat products, especially during the seasoning period. In general, both industrially and handmade salami are quickly colonized by a composite mycobiota during seasoning, often with a strong predominance of Penicillium species. These species are involved in the improvement of the characteristics and taste, and in the prevention of the growth of pathogenic, toxigenic or spoilage fungi. During the survey of fungal species occurring on the salami surface and in the air of the seasoning and storage areas of a salami plant (Calabria, Italy), two Penicillium species were predominantly present. One species was identified as Penicillium nalgiovense, and the other was related to, but distinct from, Penicillium olsonii. Further molecular and biochemical analyses showed that this strain has high homology with the not yet described species named "Penicillium milanense" isolated in Denmark and Slovenia on cured meats. The taxonomic position of these strains in Penicillium was investigated using calmodulin, β tubulin and ITS sequences, phenotypic characters and extrolite patterns, and resulted in the discovery of a new Penicillium species, described here as P. salamii. A literature search showed that this species occurs on (cured) meat products worldwide. In our study, P. salamii predominated the salami and capocollo surface in levels similar to the commonly known starter culture P. nalgiovense, irrespective of the room or age of seasoning. Preliminary inoculation trials with P. salamii showed that it was able to colonize salami during seasoning, indicating that this species could be used as a fungal starter for dry-cured meat.
Keywords: Extrolites; Multilocus analysis; Penicillium nalgiovense; Penicillium olsonii; Salami.
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