In extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) extraction process, the occurrence of yeasts that could affect the quality of olive oil was demonstrated. Therefore, in this work, at first, the yeasts occurring during different extractive processes carried out in a Tuscany oil mill, at the beginning, in the middle, and the end of the harvesting in the same crop season, were quantified. Then, possible effects on quality of EVOO caused by the predominant yeast species, possessing specific enzymatic activities, were evaluated. Yeast concentrations were higher in extraction processes at the end of the harvesting. Twelve yeast species showing different isolation frequencies during olive oil extractive process and according to the harvesting date were identified by molecular methods. The yeast species dominating olive oil samples from decanter displayed enzymatic activities, potentially affecting EVOO quality according to zymogram analysis. HS-SPME-GC-MS analysis of the volatile compounds in commercial EVOO, inoculated with three yeast species (Nakazawaea molendini-olei
, Nakazawaea wickerhamii
, Yamadazyma terventina
), pointed out significant differences depending on the strain inoculated. In conclusion, during the olive oil extractive processes, some yeast species colonize the extraction plant and may influence the chemical and sensory characteristics of EVOO depending on the cell concentrations and their enzymatic capabilities.
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