Megan N. Biango-Daniels and Kathie T. Hodge, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA, have studied whether commercial sea salts purchased in the US contain fungi. They tested three French salts from the Atlantic Ocean, three from the Pacific Ocean, and one from Himalaya and found that every sea salt tested contained viable fungi.
In total, 85 fungi were isolated representing seven genera. One or more species of the most abundant genera, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium were found in every salt. Salts varied significantly in load of fungi, although concentrations were small.
The researchers isolated the fungi on a medium that simulated salted food with a lowered water activity. They assume that food eaten directly after applying small amounts of salt is fine. However, when larger concentrations are used for a longer period of time, e.g., when canning meat, the fungi have the potential to cause food spoilage, others may be mycotoxigenic.
The production of sea salt provides many opportunities for fungal contamination. During evaporation of seawater in shallow pools, so-called salines, microbes from the water might stay on the salt. Contamination is also possible during harvesting and packing.
- Sea salts as a potential source of food spoilage fungi,
Megan N. Biango-Daniels, Kathie T. Hodge,
Food Microbiol. 2018, 69, 89–95.