Chili (Capsicum annum) and chili powder are widely consumed in south India. The inherent and eco physiological factors with unusual nutritional characteristics of chili favors the growth of molds, during harvest and post-harvest processing. Chilies have been identified as one of the commodities with the highest Aflatoxin contamination levels. On safety perspective, the presence of fungi and the co-occurrence of mycotoxins in the chili available at market level may pose a major threat on human health. A study was conducted to assess the mycotic impact on the quality of dried red chili and chili powder available in the markets of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. The common molds like Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus niger were present in dried chilies and chili powder and the level of green mold contamination ranges from 15.71 × 103 cfu/g to 39.75 × 103 cfu/g in all the samples. Scanning Electron Microscopic examinations on morphological characteristics of conidia and spores, as well as molecular characterisation, identified the isolates as A.flavus. Chili contained more fungal spores than chili powder. The total aflatoxin potential of five A.flavus isolates were investigated. Aflatoxigenicity was found in all five isolates. All the isolates were tested positive for aflatoxin B1, with levels ranging from 0.22 to 555.11 ppb. Aflatoxin B2 has been identified in 60 percent of the isolates. Aflatoxin G1 was found in trace amounts in isolate AF1. Aflatoxin G2 was not detected in any of the isolates. Improper storage may have a significant influence in the growth of molds in chili and chili powder. The ability of fungal species to generate more than one aflatoxin should be taken into account. It has the potential to cause serious health risks. In conclusion, because single Aspergillus flavus may produce a variety of aflatoxins, there is a need for effective methods to eliminate molds and mycotoxins from food items.
Keywords: Aflatoxin; Characterization of Aspergillus; Chili; HPLC.
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