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Changes in the Microbial Composition of Raw Milk Induced by Thermization Treatments Applied Prior to Traditional Greek Hard Cheese Processing

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The microbiological quality, safety, and composition of mixtures of ewe's and goat's milk (90:10) used for cheesemaking were evaluated before and after thermization at 60 and 67°C for 30 s. Such mild thermal treatments are commonly applied to reduce natural contaminants of raw milk before processing for traditional hard Greek cheeses. Raw milk samples had an average total bacterial count of 7.3 log CFU/ml; most of these bacteria were lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and pseudomonads. The LAB flora of raw milk was dominated by enterococci (40.8%), followed by lactococci (20.4%), leuconostocs (18.4%), and mesophilic lactobacilli (10.2%). Enterococcus faecalis (30.1%) and Enterococcus faecium (13.7%) were the most common LAB isolates, followed by Enterococcus durans, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Leuconostoc lactis. Thermization at 60°C for 30 s was effective for reducing raw milk contamination by enterobacteria (5.1 log CFU/ml), coagulase-positive staphylococci (3.3 log CFU/ml), and Listeria (present in 25-ml samples) to safe levels, but it also reduced mesophilic lactococci, leuconostocs, lactobacilli, and selected enterococci (72.0%) in thermized milk. Thermization at 67°C for 30 s had a major inactivation effect on all bacterial groups. Two nisin-producing L. lactis subsp. lactis strains (M78 and M104) were isolated from raw milk, but neither nisin-producing nor other bacteriocin-producing LAB strains were isolated from thermized milk. Thus, thermization treatments control harmful bacteria but also may have a negative impact on milk quality by reducing desirable LAB and the biodiversity of raw milk bacteria overall, inactivating potentially protective LAB strains and enhancing the ability of potentially pathogenic enterococci to grow in fresh cheese curds.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: National Agricultural Research Foundation, Dairy Research Institute, Katsikas, 452 21 Ioannina, Greece 2: Unité de Recherches Fromagères, URF-545 INRA, 20 Côte de Reyne, F-15000 Aurillac, France 3: Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, SI-1230 Domžale, Slovenia

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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