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Int J Food Microbiol. 2012 Apr 2;155(1-2):73-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2012.01.022. Epub 2012 Feb 1.

Persistence of wild Streptococcus thermophilus strains on wooden vat and during the manufacture of a traditional Caciocavallo type cheese.

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DEMETRA Department, University of Palermo, Viale delle Scienze 4, Palermo, Italy.


The present work was undertaken to evaluate the influence of the wooden dairy plant equipment on the microbiological characteristics of curd to be transformed into Caciocavallo Palermitano cheese. Traditional raw milk productions were performed concomitantly with standard cheese making trials carried out in stainless steel vat inoculated with a commercial starter. Milk from two different farms (A and B) was separately processed. The wooden vat was found to be a reservoir of lactic acid bacteria (LAB), while unwanted (spoilage and/or pathogenic) microorganisms were not hosted or were present at very low levels. All microbial groups were numerically different in bulk milks, showing higher levels for the farm B. LAB, especially thermophilic cocci, dominated the whole cheese making process of all productions. Undesired microorganisms decreased in number or disappeared during transformation, particularly after curd stretching. LAB were isolated from the wooden vat surface and from all dairy samples, subjected to phenotypic and genetic characterization and identification. Streptococcus thermophilus was the species found at the highest concentration in all samples analyzed and it also dominated the microbial community of the wooden vat. Fourteen other LAB species belonging to six genera (Enterococcus, Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, Leuconostoc, Streptococcus and Weissella) were also detected. All S. thermophilus isolates were genetically differentiated and a consortium of four strains persisted during the whole traditional production process. As confirmed by pH and the total acidity after the acidification step, indigenous S. thermophilus strains acted as a mixed starter culture.

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