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Improving the quality of hard cheeses.

The production of hard cheeses in Europe totals about 600,000 tons annually. These cheeses include such products as Emmental, Maasdamer and Italian hard cheeses. The cheeses undergo a propionic acid fermentation. Two types of bacteria are involved in the fermentation: Propionibacterium (PAB) and lactic acid bacteria (LAB), especially Lactobacillus helveticus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Lactis.

The objective of one European research project was to improve the quality of the hard cheeses by controlling the fermentation process. The interactions between the propionibacteria and the lactic acid bacteria are particularly crucial for flavor, texture and appearance.

Researchers tested more than 100 different pairs of strains. They developed a rapid alternative conductimetric method to test the interactions between pairs of PAB and LAB strains.

As a result of their efforts, the investigators were able to construct a new model simulating the growth of the PAB and LAB in hard cheeses. They linked the lipolytic activity in ripened Emmentaler cheese to aroma development in the product. The lipolytic activity from PAB strains varied by a factor 1 to 10.

Strains of PAB and LAB were genetically characterized. Main pathways for the metabolism of lactate by propionibacteria were investigated. Accumulation of trehalose and glycine-betaine by different strains could be important factors in their resistance to stresses in cheese.

Further information. Jean-Rene Kerjean, ITFF (Institut Technique Francais des Fromages), BP 6224, 35062 Rennes, France; phone: +33 4 74 45 52 20; fax: +33 4 74 45 52 21; email:
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Publication:Microbial Update International
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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