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J Dairy Sci. 2010 Jan;93(1):134-47. doi: 10.3168/jds.2009-2426.

Microbiological quality of raw milk used for small-scale artisan cheese production in Vermont: effect of farm characteristics and practices.

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1
Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Vermont, Burlington 05405, USA. dennis.damico@uvm.edu

Abstract

This study 1) evaluated the overall milk quality and prevalence of 4 target pathogens (Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella spp., and Escherichia coli O157:H7) in raw milk used for small-scale artisan cheesemaking and 2) examined specific farm characteristics and practices and their effect on bacterial and somatic cell counts (SCC). Raw milk samples were collected weekly from 21 artisan cheese operations (6 organic) in the state of Vermont that manufactured raw-milk cheese from cow (12), goat (5), or sheep (4) milk during the summer of 2008. Individual samples were examined for standard plate counts (SPC), coliform counts (CC), and SCC. Samples were also screened for target pathogens both quantitatively and qualitatively by direct plating and PCR. Overall, 86% of samples had SPC <10,000 cfu/mL, with 42% <1,000 cfu/mL. Additionally, 68% of samples tested were within pasteurized milk standards for coliform bacteria under the United States' Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance at <10 cfu/mL. Log(10) SPC and CC did not differ significantly among species. Similarly, method of sample delivery (shipped or picked up), farm type (organic or conventional), and duration of milking (year-round or seasonal) did not have significant effects on farm aggregated mean log(10) SPC, CC, or SCC. Strong positive correlations were observed between herd size and mean log(10) SPC and between log(10) SPC and CC as well as SCC when data from all animal species were combined. Although SCC for cow milk were significantly lower than those for goat and sheep milk, 98, 71, and 92% of cow, sheep, and goat milk samples, respectively, were within the compliance limits of the United States' Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance for SCC. Fourteen of the 21 farms (67%) were positive for Staph. aureus, detected in 38% of samples at an average level of 20 cfu/mL. Neither L. monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7, or Salmonella spp. were detected or recovered from any of the 101 samples tested. Our results indicate that the majority of raw milk produced for small-scale artisan cheesemaking was of high microbiological quality with no detectable target pathogens despite the repeat sampling of farms. These data will help to inform risk assessments that evaluate the microbiological safety of artisan and farmstead cheeses, particularly those manufactured from raw milk.

PMID:
20059912
DOI:
10.3168/jds.2009-2426
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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