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  • 1 Corvinus University of Budapest Department of Microbiology and Biotechnology, Faculty of Food Science H-1118 Budapest Somlói út 14-16 Hungary
  • 2 Corvinus University of Budapest Department of Refrigeration and Livestock Products Technology, Faculty of Food Science H-1118 Budapest Ménesi út 43-45 Hungary
  • 3 Central Food Research Institute Department of Lipid Chemistry H-1022 Budapest Herman O. út 15 Hungary
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In the industrial practice Howard mould count (Howard, 1911) is used for the estimation of mould contamination of foods. It was developed originally for the investigation of mould contamination of tomato purée. It is also used nowadays for quality control purposes for other food products as well. Recently this constitutes the basis of the acceptance of the finished products in international trade. This technique demands experts with a lot of practice and morphological proficiency. The investigation makes use of eyes and so the tiredness of the investigator can cause uncertainties.The possibility of other methods for the determination of mould contamination of tomato purée was investigated to replace the Howard method. The NIR technique — as a rapid, non-destructive, reagentless and accurate method — was anticipated as a suitable method for the mentioned purpose. Canned tomato purée had been allowed to become mouldy then the sample was blended with non-mouldy samples in different ratio, so a series of tomato purées containing known amounts of mouldy purée was prepared. Howard mould counts and ergosterol content — another mould contamination relating value — was used as reference for NIR calibration.At quantitative investigation better results were obtained using ergosterol values. The best correlation coefficient (R=0.93) and the smallest standard error of calibration (SEC=0.008 mg g−1 ergosterol) was achieved with triangular smoothing and second derivation of the spectra. At qualitative investigation Polar Qualification System (PQS) was used. Clusters between samples with low and high ergosterol levels could be separated.

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