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J Dairy Sci. 2007 Apr;90(4):1653-61.

Biofilm ecology of wooden shelves used in ripening the French raw milk smear cheese Reblochon de Savoie.

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Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Laboratoire de Recherche en Génie Industriel Alimentaire, EA 3733, IUT A Département Génie Biologique, Bourg en Bresse, F-01060 France.


Little work has been carried out on the microbiology of wooden shelves supporting cheese during ripening, and the safety of their use during cheese ripening has frequently been asked. Microbial characterization (enumerations on specific growth media) and description of their physicochemical conditions (pH, water activity, and salt concentration) were determined on 50 wooden shelves of 3 different ages at the end of the cheese-ripening process, using cheeses from 8 farm producers. The experiments were performed during 2 different seasons (summer and autumn). Micrococci-corynebacteria and yeasts and molds were found to be the dominant microflora on the shelves. Leuconostocs, facultative heterofermentative lactobacilli, enterococci, staphylococci, and pseudomonads were also found but at lower levels. There was no statistical difference in the major microflora between shelves of different ages. Moreover, the total counts and the predominant microflora showed a surprising homogeneity between origins of cheeses. For most of the microflora enumerated, no seasonal variation was observed. Regardless of the age of the shelves, the wood had high water activity values (0.94 to 0.97), neutral pH values (7.1 to 8.3), and low salt contents (0.11 to 0.17 mg/cm2). The origins of the cheese had a statistically significant impact on water activity, pH, and salt concentration, whereas the age of the shelves did not influence these parameters. This study demonstrated the stability of the technological biofilm present on wooden shelves and will serve to enlarge the debate on the use of wood in cheese ripening.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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