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Int J Food Microbiol. 2012 May 15;156(2):91-101. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2012.03.007. Epub 2012 Mar 15.

Characteristics of microbial biofilm on wooden vats ('gerles') in PDO Salers cheese.

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INRA, UR 545, Fromagères, 20 côte de Reyne, F-15000 Aurillac, France.


The purpose of this study was to characterize microbial biofilms from 'gerles' (wooden vats for making PDO Salers cheese) and identify their role in milk inoculation and in preventing pathogen development. Gerles from ten farms producing PDO Salers cheese were subjected to microbial analysis during at least 4 periods spread over two years. They were distinguished by their levels of Lactobacillus (between 4.50 and 6.01 log CFU/cm(2)), Gram negative bacteria (between 1.45 and 4.56 log CFU/cm(2)), yeasts (between 2.91 and 5.57 log CFU/cm(2)), and moulds (between 1.72 and 4.52 log CFU/cm(2)). They were then classed into 4 groups according their microbial characteristics. These 4 groups were characterized by different milk inoculations (with either sour whey or starter culture, daily or not), and different washing procedures (with water or whey from cheese making). The farm gerles were not contaminated by Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes or Staphylococcus aureus. Only one slight, punctual contamination was found on one gerle among the ten studied. Even when the milk was deliberately contaminated with L. monocytogenes and S. aureus in the 40 L experimental gerles, these pathogens were found neither on the gerle surfaces nor in the cheeses. Using 40 L experimental gerles it was shown that the microbial biofilms on the gerle surfaces formed in less than one week and then remained stable. They were mainly composed of a great diversity of lactic acid bacteria (Leuconostoc pseudomesenteroides, Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus hilgardii,…), Gram positive catalase positive bacteria (Curtobacterium flaccumfaciens, Curtobacterium oceanosedimentum Citrococcus spp., Brachybacterium rhamnosum, Kocuria rhizophila, Arthrobacter spp.…) and yeast (Kluyveromyces lactis, Kluyveromyces marxianus). In less than 1 min, even in a 500 L farm gerle, the gerle's microbial biofilm can inoculate pasteurized milk with micro-organisms at levels superior to those in raw milk.

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