Cheese treatment halts microorganisms
Yeasts, molds and fungi cost cheesemakers time and money. Cheeses have to be trimmed, sometimes before they’ve even left the plant. Microorganisms limit the shelf life of blocks, slices and shredded cheese at the retail market.
A treatment for the cheese surface, Natamax[TM], from Pfizer Food Science Group, Dairy Ingredients Div., controls yeast, mold and fungi growth and extends shelf life as much as five times. It also alleviates the need to trim cheese, saving on product loss and labor costs, the company says.
The material is a combination of Natamycin and lactose. Natamycin prevents microorganism growth, presumably by blocking a transport mechanism in the cell membrane, resulting in osmotic shock. Natamax remains on the outside of the cheese and does not migrate below the surface. Therefore, it retains a high concentration and remains effective for a long time. The treatment doesn’t interfere with bacterial cultures that contribute to cheese flavor.
Application methods include dipping cheese slices, blocks or wheels; spraying blocks, wheels or shredded cheese; or application in emulsion coatings. The treatment should be applied post-brining for maximum effectiveness, or it can be added directly to brine tanks to control yeast and mold levels in the brine.
Effectiveness depends upon the type of cheese and the packaging method. Shredded cheese is more vulnerable than blocks, for example, because of its greater surface area. In tests by the supplier, untreated, unpackaged cheese developed yeast and mold growth within a week. Treated, unpackaged cheese resisted microbial growth for 5-6 weeks.
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