Research – Listeria monocytogenes survives better at lower storage temperatures in regular and low-salt soft and cured cheeses

Science Direct

Highlights

Salt reduction did not affect the behaviour of Listeria monocytogenes in soft cheeses.

The pathogen showed greater survival capacity at 4 °C than at 22 °C in both types of cheeses.

The prevalence of the serovar 1/2c strain increased over storage time in soft cheeses.

Abstract

The behaviour of Listeria monocytogenes was investigated in soft pasteurized milk cheese elaborated with different salt concentrations (1.17 and 0.30% w/w) and in cured raw sheep milk cheese over storage up to 189 days at different isothermal conditions. Commercial 25-g cheese samples were inoculated with a 4-strain cocktail of L. monocytogenes (serovars 4b, 1/2a, 1/2b and 1/2c) at approximately 104 CFU/g. The inoculated samples were stored at 4 and 22 °C and withdrawn at proper intervals for L. monocytogenes enumeration. The prevalence of the different serovar strains of L. monocytogenes was characterized on soft cheese samples over storage at 4 °C using multiplex PCR. Salt reduction did not affect the survival of L. monocytogenes in soft cheeses and a maximum of 1-log reduction was observed in both regular and low-salt cheeses after 189 days of storage at 4 °C. The pathogen showed greater survival capacity in both soft and cured cheeses during storage at 4 °C compared to the storage at 22 °C, where more than 2.5 log reductions were computed. The fate of L. monocytogenes was described through a Weibull model fitted to survival data. The time required for a first tenfold reduction of the L. monocytogenes population (δ) at 4 °C is around 150 days in soft and 72 days in cured cheeses. At 22 °C, the estimated δ values are at least 60% lower in both cheese types. Among the four L. monocytogenes serovars present in the inoculated cocktail, the serovar 4b strain was the most sensitive to refrigerated storage, while the prevalence of serovar 1/2c strain increased over time in soft cheeses. Overall, the data obtained in this study help to deepen knowledge into factors affecting L. monocytogenes behaviour on cheeses and evidenced the variability between serovars in terms of survival capacity, which may be considered when performing microbial risk assessments.

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