The study, funded by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), will focus on the effects of strains of Mycobacterium bovis and E. coli pathogens in unpasteurised milk when used to make cheeses. The findings from the project, which kicked off on 1 September this year, could have major implications for cheese processing, CCFRA scientist Phil Voysey told DairyReporter.com.
"It is currently unknown how E-coli in cattle is affected when passed into milk," he said. "The study will provide more information to the FSA and the dairy industry on possible dangers." According to the CCFRA, the Mycobacterium bovis pathogen has been known to survive in cheeses made from unpasteurised milk, though there is as yet no research into the risk this can pose.
In regards to the vero-cytotoxin producing E. coli (VTEC), which is also associated with raw milk, even less appears to be known. The CCFRA says that there is no knowledge on how well the pathogen is able to survive in fermented products, particularly when coming into contact with starter cultures and microbial flora present within them.
The project therefore aims to develop and test new ways to detect and isolate the organisms in milk and cheeses. Additionally, the study will also asses how micro-organisms survive in a range of both hard and soft varieties focusing on the particular effects of PH and salt levels. Voysey said the project will recreate the processes used by cheese manufacturers, under lab conditions, to enable predicative work on inhibiting the growth of Mycobacterium bovis.
The project will consult with experts involved in cheese processing, including manufacturers, industry associations like Dairy UK and the Northern Ireland Dairy Council, and scientists from Queens University Belfast, the CCFRA says.
The association added that it welcomed further comment from the dairy industry about the studies.