Scientists discover a new mold -- on dried salami

Russ Parsons
The California Cook
What do you call a new mold found on sausages? P. salamii, of course.

An international team of researchers has identified a previously unknown species of mold. And you’ve probably eaten it.

While examining the white mold that covers dried salami in a Calabrian sausage factory, microbiologists recognized a type of mold they hadn’t identified before. When they compared its DNA to that of mold samples from other sausage factories around the world, they discovered this new species actually exists all over the world.

Last week a team from Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and Slovenia published their findings in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, which was picked up by the website Microbial Foods.Org (motto: “digesting the news of fermented foods” — bookmark it).  

Though commonly associated with spoilage, many molds are actually beneficial to food, especially in cheese and sausage making. They encourage reactions that add distinctive flavors, and by coating the food, prevent the development of bad molds and bacteria.

The most common of these molds are types of penicillin, which produce a white, powdery coating.  In many cheese- and sausage-making plants, these molds are so commonplace that they will quickly coat any food if left alone. But so important is this coating, many producers leave nothing to chance and spray their cheeses and sausages with a diluted compound including spores from these molds.

When scientists in Calabria were cataloging the various types of mold found at one sausage factory, in addition to the common Penicillium nalgiovense, they found another type, a green one, that had not yet been identified.

When they began comparing it to molds collected from other sausage-making plants around the world, they found it was actually commonplace.

What did they choose to name this new mold? Penicillium salamii, of course.

Are you a food geek? Follow me on Twitter @russ_parsons1

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