Use of indicator bacteria for monitoring sanitary quality of raw milk cheeses - A literature review.

Affiliation

Division of Dairy, Egg and Meat Safety, Office of Food Safety, FDA, College Park, MD, 20740, USA. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

Many countries use Escherichia coli and coliforms as indicators of sanitary quality of foods and have set limits for cheeses, including raw-milk cheeses. This paper reviewed the scientific literature for E. coli and coliform levels that are found in different types of raw milk, the fate of indicators during the manufacturing and ripening of different cheeses and the indicator levels that have been found in the finished cheeses. These studies from worldwide showed that E. coli and coliforms are found in different types of raw milk but usually at <100 CFU/ml or not found. Instances where raw milk contained indicator levels >1000 CFU/ml have mostly been attributed to unsanitary conditions/production. During cheese-making, indicators present in raw milk will often increase in numbers, but the levels decline as the acidity from lactose fermentation decreases the pH. Except for fresh cheeses that are not aged, indicator levels are further reduced by 2-3 log10 CFU/g or more, during the ripening process. As a result, indicator levels in finished cheeses are often low and within the limits of <10 or <100 CFU/g set by many countries. The cited studies also show that raw milk cheeses that are made with quality raw milk, under hygienic conditions and properly aged, should not contain high levels of indicator bacteria in the final product.

Keywords

Cheese,Coliform,E. coli,Indicator,Raw milk,

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