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Campden reports on health risks from contaminated cheese

By Guy Montague-Jones , 31-Mar-2010

Campden BRI has revealed that there could be a problem regarding the health risks posed by Escherichia coli O157 and Mycobacterium bovis in cheeses made from unpasteurised milk.

To evaluate potential risks, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) funded project, which kicked off in September 2007, sought to uncover the survivability of M. bovis and E. coli pathogens in unpasteurised cheeses.

Full results of that research will be presenting at a Campden seminar on 22 June this year, but ahead of that date, Phil Voysey, event director, gave a brief preview of the findings.

Potential problem

Voysey told DairyReporter.com that the research had uncovered some degree of survivability, suggesting that there could potentially be a problem.

The ultimate aim of the research is to determine what should be done about cheese that has been made using unpasteurised milk from a herd of cattle that has just failed its annual tuberculosis test. Also, what should be done with the cheese that has been produced between a negative and positive test?

Uncertain areas

Voysey said there are two areas of uncertainty that the Campden research has sought to shed light on. He said: “It is unclear as to whether the causative bacterium M. bovis would still be viable in the cheese. There is also uncertainty as to whether another pathogenic bacterium (Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli), which has been linked to cheese, is likely to survive.”

To answer these questions, Campden produced a range of three hard and soft cheeses (Cheddar, Caerphilly and Camembert-type) in a laboratory and inoculated them with the pathogens, and then determined their survival. Findings will be discussed in full at the seminar in June.

Campden undertook the project in consultation with scientists from Queens University Belfast and industry associations including Dairy UK and the Specialist Cheesemakers Association.

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