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Occurrence of bacteria and endotoxins in fermented foods and beverages from Nigeria and South Africa.

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In Africa, fermented foods and beverages play significant roles in contributing to food security. Endotoxins are ubiquitous heat stable lipopolysaccharide (LPS) complexes situated in the outer cell membranes of Gram-negative bacteria. This study evaluated the microbiological quality of fermented foods (ogiri, ugba, iru, ogi and ogi baba) and beverages (mahewu and umqombothi) from selected Nigerian and South African markets. The bacterial diversity of the fermented foods was also investigated and the identity of the isolates confirmed by biochemical and molecular methods. Isolate grouping was established through hierarchal clustering and the samples were further investigated for endotoxin production with the chromogenic Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate assay. The total aerobic count of the samples ranged from 5.7 to 10.8 Log CFU/g. Fourteen bacteria genera were detected with most of the isolates being members of the Enterobacteriaceae family. Sphingomonas paucimobilis and Escherichia coli were the dominant Gram-negative bacterial species detected. There were considerable variations in the concentrations of endotoxins produced and the lowest endotoxin concentration was found in ogi (4.3 × 10 EU/g) and the highest in iru (5.5 × 104 EU/g) while, 44% of umqombothi samples had endotoxins. Ogi baba samples had better microbial quality than other samples due to its reduced bacterial load and endotoxin levels. There was a strong positive (r = 0.714, r = 0.996) and significant (p < 0.01) correlation between the endotoxin levels and bacterial loads of the samples. Some previously unreported species of bacteria found in the fermented foods included Aeromonas haemolyticus and Rhizobium radiobacter. This is the first comprehensive report on endotoxins in fermented foods and beverages in Africa. Furthermore, the occurrence of pathogenic bacteria and toxins in the foods and beverages is of serious concern that calls for immediate action.

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