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Coliform Specification for Blue Cheese


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#1 ffkmm

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Posted 05 April 2017 - 11:13 PM

We are a cheese plant that processes a variety of cheeses. Mainly blue cheese and we also process some block and ready to eat curd.

I am new to cheese and I am not understand how specification are determined. We currently have a spec of all product to be <100 coliform and <10 for e.coil and negative for Listeria. But I am not sure how this is determined. Due to ready to eat product going out of the door in just a few days could a coliform count of <500 be consider with <10 e.coli or would that be against the rules. I have been trying to find some stuff on the FDA and USDA website and I have not found anything. I have read a couple if articles where coliform in cheese is not a unusual in cheddar.  And most recalls are due to e.coli and listeria and I have never read anything about a recall on high coliform.

 

Does anyone have any information or have some knowledge on cheese and specification that they can point me too.

 

thanks for the help,



#2 Dr.Khan

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 02:03 AM

Hi Fmelendez
 
I have this impression that presence of higher count of Colform is indicatives of presence of poor cleaning and may or may not contains any pathogenic  bacteria that is why there is no specification in the legal documents issued by food authorities in Australia and New Zealand.
 
attached is the Microbiological standard issued last year for dairy products. Cheese is mentioned on page 8. it may be helpful.
 
Kind regards
Dr. Humaid Khan
MD 
Halal International services
Beverly hills Sydney
Australia

Attached Files



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#3 Charles.C

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 04:21 AM

We are a cheese plant that processes a variety of cheeses. Mainly blue cheese and we also process some block and ready to eat curd.

I am new to cheese and I am not understand how specification are determined. We currently have a spec of all product to be <100 coliform and <10 for e.coil and negative for Listeria. But I am not sure how this is determined. Due to ready to eat product going out of the door in just a few days could a coliform count of <500 be consider with <10 e.coli or would that be against the rules. I have been trying to find some stuff on the FDA and USDA website and I have not found anything. I have read a couple if articles where coliform in cheese is not a unusual in cheddar.  And most recalls are due to e.coli and listeria and I have never read anything about a recall on high coliform.

 

Does anyone have any information or have some knowledge on cheese and specification that they can point me too.

 

thanks for the help,

 

Hi fmelendez,

 

Frankly, you need the help of a (FS-knowledgeable) microbiologist.

 

I'm not familiar with cheese/FDA requirements but any micro.spec (eg species/groups) is dividable into safety and non-safety related items. Lot rejections are usually either due to a positive detection of a zero tolerant pathogen or a value for any other micro.species/group greater than the relevant specification.

 

One micro. result/one characteristic is IMO inadequate to characterise a particular lot unless involving a positive result for a zero tolerant microbial pathogen, eg Salmonella, L.monocytogenes. Nonetheless, single samples are sometimes used (see next para.).

 

Aceptance/rejection for a particular lot is dependent on the specific official/contractual requirements. Evaluation is often based on (nmMc) data sets for 5 samples but exceptions may exist, eg see the attached file in previous post, pg5.

 

The Coliform group is considered non-safety related but, depending on the product / process, the level may be a general hygiene indicator. Generic (ie non-pathogenic) E.coli species are considered indicative of fecal contamination so significant levels are a more specific indicator of unsatisfactory hygienic condition than Coliform. Note that the cheese specs in attached file in previous post do not mention Coliform but include E.coli.

 

Offhand a consistent level for finished product/Coliform of 500cfu/gm for a process including a thermal pasteurization stage (does it ??)  sounds too high and indicates post-process contamination but you need more data to make any confident predictions.


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


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#4 FurFarmandFork

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 05:56 PM

FSIS Has a recommended microbiological limit for both hard and soft cheeses of <100CFU coliforms/g as routine testing. If exceeding the limit, they recommend "Investigate, corrective action" but not necessarily reject the lot as you would for E. coli. See Charles' comments on evaluating the risk and getting a microbiologist involved.

 

https://www.fsis.usd...pdf?MOD=AJPERES

 

The FSMA guidance on microbiological hazards you should consider in your HARPC plan shows which organisms you're trying to control for your type of cheese:

https://www.fda.gov/...A/UCM517402.pdf


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#5 ffkmm

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 06:33 PM

I must say thank for the above responses above. And yes all the things I have read usually only state E.coli specification. I just really want to know if there was anything with coliform specification in writing.

 

But to answer you question: All the cheese made here is pasteurized. But due to this being cheese, ingredients are added post pasteurization. COA are received with each shipment and a COA verification is done on ingredient on a quarterly basis.

 

I have implemented changes in cleaning in our process as well. We have employee hand swab done on a monthly basis. And I do understand the fact that this is a hygiene issues here, but I have not found my target as of now. Coliform have definitely decrease in our Cheddar product from >1000 to around 200 with the changes implemented. I know it is not impossible spec to meet <100 but it is a tight one at times. But when it come to cheese, time is on my side because coliform begin to die off over time due to the dropping in pH. But when it comes to RTE product I am not sure how that even works when it come to specification due to it being consumed right out the door. 



#6 FurFarmandFork

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 07:44 PM

Hi Fmelendez,

 

I know it was a big document I linked to. So here's your relevant page in writing, so that you know it's out there explicitly written.

 

 

Attached Files


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#7 Charles.C

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Posted 07 April 2017 - 12:51 AM

JFI I attach a set of micro.guidelines (2014)(Hong Kong) with data substantially based on the UK/HPA publication of 2009 (variously posted here already).

 

Has less interpretive micro. discussion than the UK text but data presentation is easier to browse through.

 

Includes some additional product sections of general interest, eg bottled drinking water,  prob. borowed from various sources (listed).

 

Very little numerical data for Coliform (similar to UK-2009).

 

Some of the Guidelines are predictably different to those in USA.

 

Attached File  Microbiological Guidelines for Food,HK,2014.pdf   1.55MB   18 downloads


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


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#8 heijafost3

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Posted 03 May 2017 - 08:20 AM

Which ingredients you use post pasteurization? Maybe the problem is there.



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#9 GMO

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Posted 03 May 2017 - 11:14 AM

We are a cheese plant that processes a variety of cheeses. Mainly blue cheese and we also process some block and ready to eat curd.

I am new to cheese and I am not understand how specification are determined. We currently have a spec of all product to be <100 coliform and <10 for e.coil and negative for Listeria. But I am not sure how this is determined. Due to ready to eat product going out of the door in just a few days could a coliform count of <500 be consider with <10 e.coli or would that be against the rules. I have been trying to find some stuff on the FDA and USDA website and I have not found anything. I have read a couple if articles where coliform in cheese is not a unusual in cheddar.  And most recalls are due to e.coli and listeria and I have never read anything about a recall on high coliform.

 

Does anyone have any information or have some knowledge on cheese and specification that they can point me too.

 

thanks for the help,

 

Coliforms are not necessarily harmful.  They can indicate poor hygiene but if present in a raw milk cheese it would be very unsurprising.  The aim should certainly be to have no detectable levels and to investigate if detections occur.

 

E Coli is a bacterium which is within the class of bacteria termed Coliforms.  Not all E Coli are pathogenic, it's a bit "pot luck".  So certainly the aim should be to trend and react to coliforms (or enterobacteriacae) before a more serious issue occurs.

 

As for if there would be a public recall for coliforms?  It's unlikely as they're not necessarily pathogenic.  I know of some cheese makers who make raw milk cheese who would certainly market product with coliforms in the UK and will still place product onto the marketplace with E Coli presence if it's not pathogenic.  I would suggest that's very dangerous and not something I'd recommend and from the looks of it, not permitted in the US.

 

You also need to understand cheddar and blue cheese are very different risks.  Cheddar is often harder, lower moisture content and lower pH.  Often in cheddar, you will have deleterious micro dying off within the storage of the cheese due to the hurdle factors and the competitive starter microflora.  In blue cheese, the pH is much higher at the end of maturation and while you still have some of the other protective factors, you may not get the same kind of out competing that you get in cheddar.  Having said that, it's probably more applicable to Listeria than coliforms but just be wary of applying what works in cheddar to what works in blue cheese, it might not. 

 

There is one school of thought that historically when cheeses were (are) made in less hygienic locations, presence of coliforms helped prevent growth (and even possibly killed off) Listeria as it's such a poor competitor... now there's an interesting topic to discuss!



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