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Int J Food Microbiol. 2011 Apr 29;146(3):253-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2011.02.033. Epub 2011 Mar 2.

Cultivable microbial communities in raw cow milk and potential transfers from stables of sixteen French farms.

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Franche-Comté University, UMR-CNRS 6249 Chrono-environnement, Mycology department, Besançon, France.


The indigenous microflora in raw milk plays an important role in the diversity of cheese flavours and may protect against the growth of pathogens, but the sources of contamination and the factors that might affect the microbial communities in milk are not well known. The objectives of this study were to broaden knowledge of the microbial composition of milk and to assess microbial transfers from the stable to the milk. Air (collected in milking parlour and stable), dust (passively collected using plastic box), cow teat surface, and hay and milk samples were collected in 16 French farms with either stanchion barn or freestall barn configurations and plated on various culture media. Bacterial and fungal colonies were identified using phenotypic and DNA sequencing methods. Results showed that most of the fungal species and environmental bacteria found in the milk were also found in the stable and the milking parlour environments, indicating large microbial transfer from stable to milking parlour then to milk. However, milk from the stanchion barns were more contaminated than milk from freestall barns. Contrasting with other bacterial and fungal species, useful cheese-making bacteria--lactobacilli and PAB--were frequently identified in the milk and on the teat surface but were rarely found in other environments. In conclusion, milk contamination by the stable environment is considerable, even if it is lower in farms with a milking parlour. Besides this environmental contamination, the teat surface remains the main source of useful cheese-making bacteria.

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