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Fungi, sources of flavor and problems

The types of fungi on the rind of Canastra cheese vary throughout the year

Léo Ramos Chaves / Revista Pesquisa FAPESP

The species of fungi that grow on the rind of Canastra cheese, produced in the mountainous region of southwest Minas Gerais, vary throughout the year. In the rainy season (December to March), there is greater diversity, with a predominance of species such as Debaryomyces prosopidis, Trichosporon asahii, Kluyveromyces lactis, and Fusarium solani. Scientists from the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV) conducted a comparative analysis of DNA from fungi extracted from 96 cheeses produced in nine towns of the microregion, identifying 25 species that were abundant in the rind, the diversity of which also varies depending on the town and the producer. There were several species of fungus common to all of the cheeses, indicating that they may play a role in the quality of the Canastra, a semi-hard, pale yellow, slightly acidic cheese that becomes denser and spicier the more it matures. In another study, the UFV team presented the market opportunities for cheeses with bloomy rinds that contain fungi and warned about the precautions producers need to take: there is a risk that the microorganisms will produce toxic compounds called mycotoxins or intensify the bitterness or discoloration of the cheese (Frontiers in Microbiology, February; Helyon, April).