Abstract: Over the years, researchers, food specialists, and all authorities concerned with food safety around the world could develop many ways to preserve and improve the shelf life of food. Recently, volatile oils have been gaining attention for their antifungal and anti-mycotoxin properties. The objectives of the present study were first to investigate mold contamination of four chilled meat products (luncheon, beef burger, sausage, and minced meat) retailed in Zagazig city, Sharkia Governorate, Egypt. Second, identification of the prevalent mould genera was followed. Third, the inhibitory effects of some essential oils against Aspergillus flavus were tested. The results of the present study showed that the mean values of the total mould count were 2.47 ± 0.04, 2.85 ± 0.11, 3.08 ± 0.12 and 2.24 ± 0.02 (log10 CFU/g) in luncheon, beef burger, sausage, and minced meat, respectively. The most contaminated samples were that belonging to sausage, followed by beef burger, luncheon, and minced meat. Five mould genera were isolated and identified in the current study, namely, Aspergillus, Penicillum, Cladosporium, Alternaria, and Mucor Furthermore, Aspergillus species was further identified into A. flavus, A. niger, A. fumigatus, A. ochraceus, and A. terreus. Essential oils of cinnamon, lemongrass, and thyme at 1% and 2% had a clear inhibitory effect against A. flavus-artificially contaminated beef burger. The effects of thyme oil 1%, cinnamon oil 1%, and lemongrass oil 1% at the 9th day on the overall acceptability score were 7.33 ± 0.28, 7.13 ± 0.27, and 7.09 ± 0.18, respectively. A. flavus counts were 3.79 ± 0.05, 3.18 ± 0.07, and 3.61 ± 0.05, respectively after these treatments. While, at the same day, thyme oil 2% effect > lemongrass oil 2% > cinnamon oil 2% for both overall acceptability score and total A. flavus count.  These findings suggest that thyme, cinnamon, and lemongrass EOs have significant antifungal activity, which is a promising solution for mould decontamination and consequently extends the shelf life of meat products.

Key words: Mould; Aspergillus spp.; A. flavus; volatile oils; beef burger


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