Molecular detection of fungi in paprika, chili powder and black pepper
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Paprika powder, chili powder, and black pepper are among the most frequently used spices in the world. The Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) regions were identified by high sequence similarity with the ITS regions of many microscopic fungi, especially representatives of the phylum Ascomycota, from 18 different spice samples that were examined. However, supplied quality certificates indicated that 10 of the 18 samples had no contamination present and were safe for human consumption. The various genera of fungi that were identified from the spices are considered to be a food safety concern as they are able to produce mycotoxins. Qualitative detection was supplemented by positive detection of viable fungal DNA using qPCR for the genera Aspergillus/Penicillium in two paprika powder and black pepper samples. These results concurred with the control analysis using axenic cultures. The described methods can be used for routine testing of spices to provide safe spices and other products to consumers.