European fermented meat products are prepared according to a wide variety of different recipes and processing conditions, which can influence their fermentative microbiota. However, due to the diverse processing conditions applied across Europe, it remained unclear to which degree bacterial heterogeneity can be encountered in commercially available fermented meat products and whether this is linked to their geographical origin. Therefore, the bacterial species diversity of 80 fermented meat products available in the Belgian retail, coming from five different countries, was investigated. It was also assessed how this related to the country of origin and the key processing parameters pH and salt concentration. The samples originated from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. In general, Southern European fermented meat products commonly had a higher pH, with their lactic acid bacteria (LAB) communities being represented by Lactobacillus sakei and with mostly Staphylococcus xylosus and Staphylococcus equorum governing over the coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) communities. Among these products, the Spanish variants showed a higher prevalence of S. equorum, whereas S. xylosus was the prevailing CNS species in most French and Italian fermented meat products. In contrast, Northern European fermented meat products were generally more acidified and showed a higher prevalence of Pediococcus pentosaceus in their LAB communities, whereas Staphylococcus carnosus represented the CNS communities. Non-parametric statistical tests indicated the impact of the geographical origin on the prevalence of the LAB and CNS species. The latter was likely due to the combination of differences in process technology as well as starter culture use.
- meat fermentation
- meat microbiota
- European fermented meat products
- geographical origin
- Starter cultures