Studies on factors relating to the development of defects in commercial cheese

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Daly, David F. M.
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University College Cork
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Defects in commercial cheese result in a downgrading of the final cheese and a consequential economic loss to the cheese producer. Developments of defects in cheese are often not fully understood and therefore not controllable by the producer. This research investigated the underlying factors in the development of split and secondary fermentation defect and of pinking defects in commercial Irish cheeses. Split defect in Swiss-type cheese is a common defect associated with eye formation and manifests as slits and cracks visible in the cut cheese loaf (Reinbold, 1972; Daly et al., 2010). No consensus exists as to the definitive causes of the defect and possible factors which may contribute to the defect were reviewed. Models were derived to describe the relationship between moisture, pH, and salt levels and the distance from sample location to the closest external block surface during cheese ripening. Significant gradients within the cheese blocks were observed for all measured parameters in cheeses at 7 day post/after manufacture. No significant pH gradient was found within the blocks on exit from hot-room ripening and at three months post exit from the hot-room. Moisture content reached equilibrium within the blocks between exit from hot-room and 3 months after exit from hot-room while salt and salt-to-moisture levels had not reached equilibrium within the cheese blocks even at three months after exit from hot-room ripening. A characterisation of Swiss-type cheeses produced from a seasonal milk supply was undertaken. Cheeses were sampled on two days per month of the production year, at three different times during the manufacturing day, at internal and external regions of the cheese block and at four ripening time points (7 days post manufacture, post hot-room, 14 days post hot-room and 3 months in a cold room after exit from hot-room). Compositional, biochemical and microbial indices were determined, and the results were analysed as a splitplot with a factorial arrangement of treatments (season, time of day, area) on the main plot and ripening time on the sub-plot. Season (and interactions) had a significant effect on pH and salt-in-moisture levels (SM), mean viable counts of L. helveticus, propionic acid and non-starter lactic acid bacteria, levels of primary and secondary proteolysis and cheese firmness. Levels of proteolysis increased significantly during hot-room ripening but also during cold room storage, signifying continued development of cheese ripening during cold storage (> 8°C). Rheological parameters (e.g. springiness and cohesiveness) were significantly affected by interactions between ripening and location within cheese blocks. Time of day of manufacture significantly affected mean cheese calcium levels at 7 days post manufacture and mean levels of arginine and mean viable counts of NSLAB. Cheeses produced during the middle of the production day had the best grading scores and were more consistent compared to cheeses produced early or late during day of manufacture. Cheeses with low levels of S/M and low values of resilience were associated with poor grades at 7 days post manufacture. Chesses which had high elastic index values and low values of springiness in the external areas after exit from hot-room ripening also obtained good commercial grades. Development of a pink colour defect is an intermittent defect in ripened cheese which may or may not contain an added colourant, e.g., annatto. Factors associated with the defect were reviewed. Attempts at extraction and identification of the pink discolouration were unsuccessful. The pink colour partitioned with the water insoluble protein fraction. No significant difference was observed between ripened control and defect cheese for oxygen levels and redox potential or for the results of elemental analysis. A possible relationship between starter activity and defect development was established in cheeses with added coulourant, as lower levels of residual galactose and lactose were observed in defective cheese compared to control cheese free of the defect. Swiss-type cheese without added colourant had significantly higher levels of arginine and significantly lower lactate levels. Flow cell cytometry indicated that levels of bacterial cell viability and metabolic state differed between control and defect cheeses (without added colourant). Pyrosequencing analysis of cheese samples with and without the defect detected the previously unreported bacteria in cheese, Deinococcus thermus (a potential carotenoid producer). Defective Swiss-type cheeses had elevated levels of Deinococcus thermus compared to control cheeses, however the direct cause of pink was not linked to this bacterium alone. Overall, research was undertaken on underlying factors associated with the development of specific defects in commercial cheese, but also characterised the dynamic changes in key microbial and physicochemical parameters during cheese ripening and storage. This will enable the development of processing technologies to enable seasonal manipulation of manufacture protocols to minimise compositional and biochemical variability and to reduce and inhibit the occurrence of specific quality defects.
Split , Secondary fermentation , Defect , Pink , Discolouration , Cheese , Eye formation
Daly, D. F. M. 2014. Studies on factors relating to the development of defects in commercial cheese. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.