The microbiota of Serrano dry-cured ham of different chemical composition, subjected or not to high-pressure processing (HPP), was investigated using culture-dependent and culture-independent methods. Microbial counts were submitted to analysis of variance with physicochemical parameters (aw, NaCl concentration, salt-in-lean ratio and intramuscular fat content) or HPP as main effects. In untreated hams, physicochemical parameters significantly affected counts of aerobic mesophiles, psychrotrophs, and moulds and yeasts. NaCl concentration and fat content influenced the levels of four and three of the five studied microbial groups, respectively, whereas no influence of aw was stated. The HPP treatment had a significant effect on counts of all investigated microbial groups. Culture-independent methods showed the presence of bacteria such as Staphylococcus equorum, Staphylococcus succinus, Bacillus subtilis and Cellulosimicrobium sp., moulds like Penicillium commune, Aspergillus fumigatus, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Eurotium athecium and Moniliella mellis, and yeasts like Debaryomyces hansenii and Candida glucosophila. Absence of B. subtilis bands and weaker bands of E. athecium were recorded for HPP-treated hams. The higher microbial levels found in lean ham might result in a quicker deterioration. HPP treatment confirmed its suitability as a procedure to control spoilage microorganisms. DGGE did not seem to be sensitive enough to highlight changes caused by HPP treatment in the microbiota of ham, but contributed to the detection of microbial species not previously found in ham.
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