Phenolic antioxidants have been shown by several researchers to possess antifungal activity. Chang and Branen (1975) demonstrated that in a glucose salt medium, 1000 ppm butylated hydroxanisole (BHA) inhibited growth and aflatoxin production of Aspergillus parasticus spores, and > 250 ppm inhibited growth and aflatoxin production of A. parasiticus mycelia. However, they found that at 10 ppm of BHA, total aflatoxin production was more than twice that of the control, with virtually no effect on mycelial weight. These results indicate that at high levels, BHA may serve as an effective antifungal agent, however, at low levels BHA may actually stimulate aflatoxin production. The BHA has been documented as inhibiting A. flavus, A. parasiticus, Penicillium, Geotrichum, Byssochlamys species, and S. cerevisiae (Davidson and Naidu 2000).
Since, the primary use of these compounds in foods is as antioxidants, their effectiveness as antifungal agents in food systems has not been adequately studied. While results of experiments in growth media indicate that these compounds exert antifungal effects, extrapolation of these resulting to food systems should be done with caution. Interaction of these compounds with food components will undoubtedly affect their antifungal properties.
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