Influence of Atmospheric Cold Plasma Exposure on Naturally Present Fungal Spores and Physicochemical Characteristics of Sundried Tomatoes (<em>Solanum lycopersicum</em> L.)
Foods. 2022 Jan 13;11(2):210. doi: 10.3390/foods11020210.
This research aimed to evaluate the impact of atmospheric cold plasma (ACP) treatment on the fungal spores naturally present in sundried tomatoes, as well as their influence on the physico-chemical properties and antioxidant activity. ACP was performed with a Surface Dielectric Barrier Discharge (SDBD), applying 6 kV at 23 kHz and exposure times up to 30 min. The results showed a significant reduction of mesophilic aerobic bacteria population and of filamentous fungi after the longer ACP exposure. In particular, the effect of the treatment was assessed on Aspergillus rugulovalvus (as sensible strain) and Aspergillus niger (as resistant strain). The germination of the spores was observed to be reliant on the species, with nearly 88% and 32% of non-germinated spores for A. rugulovalvus and A. niger, respectively. Fluorescence probes revealed that ACP affects spore viability promoting strong damage to the wall and cellular membrane. For the first time, the sporicidal effect of ACP against A. rugulovalvus is reported. Physicochemical parameters of sundried tomatoes such as pH and water activity (aw) were not affected by the ACP treatment; on the contrary, the antioxidant activity was not affected while the lycopene content was significantly increased with the increase in ACP exposure time (p ≤ 0.05) probably due to increased extractability.