Pseudomonas fluorescens group bacterial strains are responsible for repeat and sporadic postpasteurization contamination and reduced fluid milk shelf life.

J Dairy Sci 2018 Sep 28;101(9):7780-7800. Epub 2018 Jun 28.

Milk Quality Improvement Program, Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Electronic address:

Postpasteurization contamination (PPC) of high temperature, short time-pasteurized fluid milk by gram-negative (GN) bacteria continues to be an issue for processors. To improve PPC control, a better understanding of PPC patterns in dairy processing facilities over time and across equipment is needed. We thus collected samples from 10 fluid milk processing facilities to (1) detect and characterize PPC patterns over time, (2) determine the efficacy of different media to detect PPC, and (3) characterize sensory defects associated with PPC. Specifically, we collected 280 samples of high temperature, short time-pasteurized milk representing different products (2%, skim, and chocolate) and different fillers over 4 samplings performed over 11 mo at each of the 10 facilities. Standard plate count (SPC) as well as total GN, coliform, and Enterobacteriaceae (EB) counts were performed upon receipt and after 7, 10, 14, 17, and 21 d of storage at 6°C. We used 16S rDNA sequencing to characterize representative bacterial isolates from (1) test days with SPC >20,000 cfu/mL and (2) all samples with presumptive GN, coliforms, or EB. Day-21 samples were also evaluated by a trained defect judging panel. By d 21, 226 samples had SPC >20,000 cfu/mL on at least 1 d of shelf life; GN bacteria were found in 132 of these 226 samples, indicating PPC. Crystal violet tetrazolium agar detected PPC with the greatest sensitivity. Spoilage due to PPC was predominantly associated with Pseudomonas (isolated from 101 of the 132 samples with PPC); coliforms and EB were found in 27 and 37 samples with spoilage due to PPC, respectively. Detection of Pseudomonas and Acinetobacter was associated with lower flavor scores; coagulated, fruity fermented, and unclean defects were more prevalent in d-21 samples with PPC. Repeat isolation of Pseudomonas fluorescens group strains with identical partial 16S rDNA sequence types was observed in 8 facilities. In several facilities, specific lines, products, or processing days were linked to repeat product contamination with Pseudomonas with identical sequence types. Our data show that PPC due to Pseudomonas remains a major challenge for fluid milk processors; the inability of coliform and EB tests to detect Pseudomonas may contribute to this. Our data also provide important initial insights into PPC patterns (e.g., line-specific contamination), supporting the importance of molecular subtyping methods for identification of PPC sources.

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