Nonstarter lactic acid bacteria biofilms and calcium lactate crystals in Cheddar cheese.J Dairy Sci. 2006 May; 89(5):1452-66.JD
A sanitized cheese plant was swabbed for the presence of nonstarter lactic acid bacteria (NSLAB) biofilms. Swabs were analyzed to determine the sources and microorganisms responsible for contamination. In pilot plant experiments, cheese vats filled with standard cheese milk (lactose:protein = 1.47) and ultrafiltered cheese milk (lactose:protein = 1.23) were inoculated with Lactococcus lactis ssp. cremoris starter culture (8 log cfu/mL) with or without Lactobacillus curvatus or Pediococci acidilactici as adjunct cultures (2 log cfu/mL). Cheddar cheeses were aged at 7.2 or 10 degrees C for 168 d. The raw milk silo, ultrafiltration unit, cheddaring belt, and cheese tower had NSLAB biofilms ranging from 2 to 4 log cfu/100 cm2. The population of Lb. curvatus reached 8 log cfu/g, whereas P. acidilactici reached 7 log cfu/g of experimental Cheddar cheese in 14 d. Higher NSLAB counts were observed in the first 14 d of aging in cheese stored at 10 degrees C compared with that stored at 7.2 degrees C. However, microbial counts decreased more quickly in Cheddar cheeses aged at 10 degrees C compared with 7.2 degrees C after 28 d. In cheeses without specific adjunct cultures (Lb. curvatus or P. acidilactici), calcium lactate crystals were not observed within 168 d. However, crystals were observed after only 56 d in cheeses containing Lb. curvatus, which also had increased concentration of D(-)-lactic acid compared with control cheeses. Our research shows that low levels of contamination with certain NSLAB can result in calcium lactate crystals, regardless of lactose:protein ratio.