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Evaluation of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis survival during the manufacturing process of Italian raw milk hard cheeses (Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano)

Cammi, G., Ricchi, M., Galiero, A., Daminelli, P., Cosciani-Cunico, E., Dalzini, E., Losio, M.N., Savi, R., Cerutti, G., Garbarino, C., Leo, S., Arrigoni, N.
International journal of food microbiology 2019 v.305 pp. 108247
Grana cheese, Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, cheese industry, cheese ripening, creaming, detection limit, etiology, hard cheeses, heat, human diseases, paratuberculosis, pasteurization, raw milk, ruminants, salting, skim milk, viability
Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP), the agent of paratuberculosis in ruminants, is suspected to be involved in the aetiology of some human diseases. Notably, the consumption of milk and dairy products is considered to be the main route of human exposure to MAP because of its ability to survive during pasteurization and manufacturing processes. The aim of this study was to investigate, through a microbiological challenge test, the survival of MAP during the manufacturing and ripening period of two Italian hard cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano, made from raw bovine milk. The challenge test was performed in two different phases: the creaming phase and the manufacturing phase.The creaming phase, which is the first step of cheese production, was reproduced in the laboratory employing raw cow's milk spiked with a MAP reference strain at a final concentration of 5.58 log10 CFU/mL. After the creaming at 18 °C and 27 °C for 12 h, a decrease of 0.80 log10 and 0.77 log10 was observed in partially skimmed milk, respectively.In the second phase, two batches of raw cow's milk (1000 L each) were inoculated with MAP reference and wild strains, respectively. Then, the entire manufacturing process for Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano, both of Protective Designation of Origin (PDO), was reproduced in an experimental cheese factory, starting from a concentration in milk of 5.19 ± 0.01 and 5.28 ± 0.08 log10 CFU/mL of MAP reference and wild strains, respectively. Heating the curd at 53 °C for 20 min did not affect MAP survival, however a significant decrease (p < 0.05) in MAP viability was observed during the moulding phase and after salting in brine, regarding the wild strains and the reference strain, respectively. In addition, a significant decrease was observed during the ripening period, at which time the MAP concentration dropped below the limit of detection from the second and the third month of ripening, for the wild and reference strains, respectively.Taking into account the poor data availability about MAP survival in hard cheeses, this study may improve the knowledge regarding the effect of the cheese manufacturing process on the MAP dynamics, supporting also the safety of traditional raw milk hard cheeses.