Archive | January, 2014

“Cheese symphony” by Emile Zola in his “The Belly of Paris”

11 Jan

“A silence fell at the mention of Gavard. They all looked at each other cautiously. As they were all rather short of breath by this time, it was the camembert they could smell. This cheese, with its gamy odour, had overpowered the milder smells of the marolles and the limbourg; its power was remarkable. Every now and then, however, a slight whiff, a flute-like note, came from the parmesan, while the bries came into play with their soft, musty smell, the gentle sound, so to speak, of a damp tambourine. The livarot launched into an overwhelming reprise, and the géromé kept up the symphony with a sustained high note.” 
― Émile ZolaThe Belly of Paris

What are the risks and benefits associated with consumption of raw milk cheeses?

10 Jan

A few years ago, as i was studying for my first Food Safety diploma, the teacher conceded to me that she did not know much about dairy products and asked me if i could do a talk on the safety of pasteurized cheeses.

I was not very excited about the subject, not that pasteurized cheeses are all bad, many are made in an artisan manner and rather good, it is just that raw milk cheeses deserve to be spoken about to clear any misunderstanding as to safety so i focused on the safety of raw milk cheeses instead.

What are the risks and benefits associated with consumption of raw milk cheeses?

Producers of raw milk cheeses have to reconcile multiple demands: those of European regulations to ensure food safety. Critics of raw milk cheeses highlight the health risk, risk is never zero regardless of the production envisaged. Producers of raw milk cheese are very vigilant on the microbiological quality of raw material. Samples are analyzed after milking to determine the biological diversity, more samples are analysed during making and then on the finished products, which, subject to European legislation, must meet the sanitary standards in production output. Undeniable progress has been made to control contamination from production of milk. This results in increasingly stringent measures of hygiene as the implementation of HACCP-type approach (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point method and principles of management of food safety).
The contribution of milk and dairy products poisoning in Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus or Listeria, represents less than 6% compared to other products.
S. aureus is the bacterial species most involved in foodborne illness due to dairy products but has never been responsible for deaths. Pasteurized milk, raw milk or other share the responsibility of food poisoning without significant differences
Since 1997, the number of cases of listeriosis has stabilized around 200 cases per year ( France produces more than 180000 tons of raw milk per year) and affects more than 50% of people whose immune system is disturbed, pregnant women, elderly, new born ….
L. monocytogenes was detected more frequently in cheeses made from pasteurized milk (8%) than in raw milk (4.8%) (Rudolph and Scherer, 2001). In France, over a period of 10 years (1987-1997), 73 infections due to cheese consumption were recorded for 2 million tonnes of raw milk cheeses.

Consequently, the production of cheeses, including the raw milk is becoming safer and the most serious poisonings are often associated with technological processes or defective storage before consumption.
If risk analysis is becoming increasingly common, the analysis of profits is too often overlooked.
The benefits of raw milk cheeses are undeniably linked to the diversity of microbial populations inhabiting the ecosystem cheese.
Thus, more than 150 microbial species (bacteria, yeasts or molds) have been identified in raw milk, each with its own balance in terms of species and strains (Callon et al., 2007, Delbès et al, 2007). This diversity persists even if the practices of milk production based solely on health ( pasteurized milk) tend to diminish levels of quantitative microbial flora. The diversity of microbial populations in raw milk is the source of a wide variety of aromatic molecules, themselves the source of the diversity and richness of sensory raw milk cheeses (Montel et al, 2005).
Biodiversity can not be reproduced during the seeding and pasteurized milk microfiltered in which only a limited number of strains is inoculated which leads to a uniform sensory characteristics.
Microbial diversity is an asset to barrier to pathogenic micro-organisms (Millet et al, 2006). It can inhibit microbial populations or species such as opportunistic pathogens by acidification, production of inhibitory metabolites (organic acids, ethanol, bacteriocins) or by nutrient competition. Epidemiological studies have shown that consumption of farm milk may provide protection against asthma and allergy (Waser et al, 2007). The consumption of fermented products with complex flora could improve the immune system (Moreau and Louis Vuitton, 2002) or limit colonization of the intestinal tract by some micro-organisms resistant to antibiotics (Bertrand et al, 2007).
Exposure to micro-organisms in early childhood would prevent atopic disorders (Racila and Kline, 2005). Young children living in families, on farms or in contact with animals, have less sensitivity to allergens (Riedler et al, 2000).

I walked quite late when i was a baby, my first few steps were taken in a field where cows grazed, my first fall happened shortly after,

i landed in cow dung! Unashamedly, i still now enjoy very much the smell of cow dung, that typical smell of the farm which if you close your eyes, you might smell on the surface of some cheeses.  It brings me back!