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Absence of growth of Listeria monocytogenes in naturally contaminated Cheddar cheese

Dalmasso, Marion, Jordan, Kieran
The Journal of dairy research 2014 v.81 no.1 pp. 46-53
Cheddar cheese, European Union, Listeria monocytogenes, cheese ripening, laws and regulations, pollution, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, raw milk, shelf life
Each cheese producer is responsible by the legislation for the number of Listeria monocytogenes in cheese and is required to prove that numbers will not exceed 100 cfu/g throughout the shelf-life of the cheese. Even in the case of hard-cheese such as Cheddar cheese, the absence of growth of List. monocytogenes during ripening has to be demonstrated to comply with EU legislation. Studies dedicated to assessing List. monocytogenes growth throughout cheese shelf-life are generally based on artificially contaminated cheeses. Contrary to the majority of works, the current study focused on the growth of List. monocytogenes in naturally contaminated raw milk farmhouse Cheddar cheeses during a five-month ripening period. List. monocytogenes growth was assessed by direct count and its presence was detected by enrichment in two naturally contaminated cheese batches. In order to track routes of contamination, 199 processing environment samples from inside and outside the processing facility were taken, and their analysis for the presence of List. monocytogenes was performed on four occasions over a 9-month period. List. monocytogenes isolates were differentiated using PFGE and serotyping. List. monocytogenes never exceeded 20 cfu/g in the cheeses and could not be detected after five months of ripening. Eleven pulsotypes were identified. One pulsotype was found in the yard outside the processing facility, in a vat, on the processing area floor and in a cheese. This indicated that the outside environment constitutes a potential source of contamination of the processing environment and of the cheese. These results demonstrate that this farmhouse Cheddar cheese does not support List. monocytogenes growth and suggests that the efforts to reduce processing environment contamination are worthwhile.