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J Dairy Sci. 2013 Oct;96(10):6172-85. doi: 10.3168/jds.2013-6675. Epub 2013 Aug 1.

The effect of sodium reduction with and without potassium chloride on the survival of Listeria monocytogenes in Cheddar cheese.

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Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul 55108.


Sodium chloride (NaCl) in cheese contributes to flavor and texture directly and by its effect on microbial and enzymatic activity. The salt-to-moisture ratio (S/M) is used to gauge if conditions for producing good-quality cheese have been met. Reductions in salt that deviate from the ideal S/M range could result in changing culture acidification profiles during cheese making. Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis or Lc. lactis ssp. cremoris are both used as cultures in Cheddar cheese manufacture, but Lc. lactis ssp. lactis has a higher salt and pH tolerance than Lc. lactis ssp. cremoris. Both salt and pH are used to control growth and survival of Listeria monocytogenes and salts such as KCl are commonly used to replace the effects of NaCl in food when NaCl is reduced. The objectives of this project were to determine the effects of sodium reduction, KCl use, and the subspecies of Lc. lactis used on L. monocytogenes survival in stirred-curd Cheddar cheese. Cheese was manufactured with either Lc. lactis ssp. lactis or Lc. lactis ssp. cremoris. At the salting step, curd was divided and salted with a concentration targeted to produce a final cheese with 600 mg of sodium/100 g (control), 25% reduced sodium (450 mg of sodium/100 g; both with and without KCl), and low sodium (53% sodium reduction or 280 mg of sodium/100 g; both with and without KCl). Potassium chloride was added on a molar equivalent to the NaCl it replaced to maintain an equivalent S/M. Cheese was inoculated with a 5-strain cocktail of L. monocytogenes at different times during aging to simulate postprocessing contamination, and counts were monitored over 27 or 50 d, depending on incubation temperature (12 or 5 °C, respectively). In cheese inoculated with 4 log₁₀ cfu of L. monocytogenes/g 2 wk after manufacture, viable counts declined by more than 3 log₁₀ cfu/g in all treatments over 60 d. When inoculated with 5 log₁₀ cfu/g at 3mo of cheese age, L. monocytogenes counts in Cheddar cheese were also reduced during storage, but by less than 1.5 log10 cfu/g after 50 d. However, cheese with a 50% reduction in sodium without KCl had higher counts than full-sodium cheese at the end of 50 d of incubation at 4 °C when inoculated at 3 mo. When inoculated at 8 mo postmanufacture, this trend was only observed in 50% reduced sodium with KCl, for cheese manufactured with both cultures. This enhanced survival for 50% reduced-sodium cheese was not seen when a higher incubation temperature (12 °C) was used when cheese was inoculated at 3 mo of age and monitored for 27 d (no difference in treatments was observed at this incubation temperature). In the event of postprocessing contamination during later stages of ripening, L. monocytogenes was capable of survival in Cheddar cheese regardless of which culture was used, whether or not sodium had been reduced by as much as 50% from standard concentrations, or if KCl had been added to maintain the effective S/M of full-sodium Cheddar cheese.


Cheddar cheese; KCl; Listeria monocytogenes; sodium reduction

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