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Persistence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Dairy Fermentation Systems

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We examined (i) the persistence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 as a postpasteurization contaminant in fermented dairy products; (ii) the ability of E. coli O157:H7 strains with and without the general stress regulatory protein, RpoS, to compete with commercial starter cultures in fermentation systems; and (iii) the survival of E. coli O157:H7 in the yogurt production process. In commercial products inoculated with 103 CFU/ml, E. coli O157:H7 was recovered for up to 12 days in yogurt (pH 4.0), 28 days in sour cream (pH 4.3), and at levels >102 CPU/ml at 35 days in buttermilk (pH 4.1). For the starter culture competition trials, the relative inhibition of E. coli O157:H7 in the experimental fermentation systems was, in decreasing order, thermophilic culture mixture, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus R110 alone, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis D280 alone, Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris D62 alone, and Streptococcus thermophilus C90 alone showing the least inhibition. Recovery of the rpoS mutant was lower than recovery of its wild-type parent by 72 h or earlier in the presence of individual starter cultures. No E. coli O157:H7 were recovered after the curd formation step in yogurt manufactured with milk inoculated with 105 CPU/mI. Our results show that (i) postprocessing entry of E. coli O157:H7 into fermented dairy products represents a potential health hazard; (ii) commercial starter cultures differ in their ability to reduce E. coli O157:H7 CFU numbers in fermentation systems; and (iii) the RpoS protein appears to most effectively contribute to bacterial survival in the presence of conditions that are moderately lethal to the cell.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Food Science Department, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

Publication date: December 1, 1998

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