Low Incidence of Foodborne Pathogens of Concern in Raw Milk Utilized for Farmstead Cheese Production

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Overall milk quality and prevalence of four target pathogens in raw milk destined for farmstead cheesemaking was examined. Raw milk samples were collected weekly from June to September 2006 from 11 farmstead cheese operations manufacturing raw milk cheese from cow's, goat's, and sheep's milk. Samples were screened for Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli O157:H7 both quantitatively (direct plating) and qualitatively (PCR). Overall, 96.8% of samples had standard plate counts of <100,000 CFU/ml, 42.7% of which were <1,000 CFU/ml. Although no federal standards exist for coliforms in raw milk, 61% of samples tested conformed to pasteurized milk standards under the U.S. Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) at <10 CFU/ml. All cow and sheep milk samples and 93.8% of goat milk samples were within the limits dictated by the PMO for somatic cell counts. Of the 11 farms, 8 (73%) produced samples that were positive for S. aureus, which was detected in 34.6% (46 of 133) of milk samples. L. monocytogenes was isolated from three milk samples (2.3%), two of which were from the same farm. E. coli O157:H7 was recovered from one sample of goat's milk for an overall incidence of 0.75%. Salmonella was not recovered from any of the 133 samples. The findings of this study suggest that most raw milk intended for farmstead cheesemaking is of high microbiological quality with a low incidence of pathogens. These data will help inform risk assessments associated with the microbiological safety of farmstead cheeses, particularly those manufactured from raw milk.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Vermont, Bington, Vermont 05405, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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    First published in 1937, the Journal of Food Protection®, is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection® is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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