Enzyme technology may overcome cheese ‘problems’

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cheese, Milk

Enzyme technology may overcome cheese ‘problems’
Enzyme technology may be one way of producing cheeses that are more natural, contain fewer additives, and are E-number and GM free.

That’s one message that stemmed from a joint symposium in Cork, Ireland, organised by University College Cork and Teagasc via a strategic research alliance and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research last week.

The symposium attracted academics and food scientists from firms such as Actilait in France and DSM Food Specialties.

Symposium chair Dr Kieren Kilkawley, from Teagasc, told DairyReporter.com: "We had 185 delegates and 65 per cent of them were outside Britain and Ireland, so it was a huge success."

The event included a presentation by Dr Tim Coolbear, from the Fonterra Research Centre in New Zealand, who told delegates that potential targets for cheese production meant there would be demand for more natural, GM and E-number free products that were nonetheless affordable.

Kilkawley said: "Tim Coolbear outlined the fact that he felt that enzyme technology would offer solutions going forward. It could very well be that Fonterra are ahead of the game, but since he didn't go into huge detail in his presentation then it's hard for us to know."

Legal and technological hurdles

Although the technological and legislative hurdles to technology that could achieve such ends were high, they were not insurmountable, Coolbear said, and he believed enzymes offered one solution to the targets outlined above.

Kilkawley said that he thought the future for enzymes was "probably more for cheeses for ingredient purposes, rather than for standard branded entity cheeses".

For instance, DSM Food Specialties offers a preservative-free coagulant range, with its chymosin- (an enzyme found in rennet) based Maxiren Gold.

The ingredient range is designed to ensure consistent and stable enzymatic activity and maximise cheese yield, during the separation of milk into curds and whey before further processing.

Asked about other notable presentation, Kilkawley cited a​talk by Professor Bart Weimer on lactic acid bacteria in cheese.

Kilkawley said: "He postulated a number of years ago that lactic bacteria entered a thermalized state in cheese. but couldn't explain this via traditional plate-counting techniques.

"But these cells are still metabolically active and are still hugely involved in flavour development."

"Then there was work that I presented that we'd validated this in model systems, that these cells are metabolically active," ​Kilkawley added.

"So it was agreed that in future, we'd have to develop new techniques to look at these, and to evaluate their importance in cheese over-ripening."

Improving cheese quality

This was with a view to helping cheese producers "improve quality overall" ​as well as flavour, Kilkawley said.

Dr John Hannon from Teagasc and Dr Anne Thierry from INRA (France), also outlined research to identify and quantify key flavour compounds in cheese and these advanced “understanding of the flavour development process”.

Teagasc said it had recently completed the development of a flavour chemistry facility at the Teagasc Food Research Centre in Moorepark, for industrial as well as academic use.

Professor Paul Ross, head of the Teagasc Food Programme, said: “Cheese represents a major and growing part of our dairy industry. Indeed, 30 per cent of whole milk is utilised for cheese making and €500m worth of cheese was produced in 2010.

“In an era where the milk pool is going to expand by up to 50 per cent, it is essential that we continue to innovate and be inventive in the cheeses we make.”

Related topics: Ingredients, Cheese

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