In 2020, an outbreak of Salmonella enteriditis occurred in Italy, affecting more than 80 people through the consumption of a Pecorino cheese produced at two local dairies. This cheese is produced from raw, unpasteurised sheep milk. The original source of the Salmonella was unclear, but an inspection at the farm revealed that general hygiene standards were unsatisfactory and milk was kept for more than an hour in the milking buckets at a temperature of 37°C before being transferred to the cooling tank. Naturally, these storage conditions boost the proliferation of pathogens, but let’s look further into the topic… Today in this new Blog entry we will tackle this difficult challenge and see what we can do to improve our results. Let’s start from the beginning.

What is pasteurisation and what does “raw milk” mean?

According to the FDA, “Pasteurization is a widely used process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time“. Raw milk is milk from animals that has not been pasteurized and therefore can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, and others that cause foodborne illness, often called “food poisoning”. These bacteria can be especially dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, children, older adults and pregnant women. The next logical question would be…

In case of drinking raw milk, can I get Salmonella poisoning?

There is no doubt that the pasteurisation process guarantees the control of all pathogens capable of contaminating milk, and reduces the risk of food poisoning. Still, after this treatment some forms of resistance, commonly known as spores, may resist. Although this spores do not pose any risk to the consumer, it means that pasteurisation is not a 100% effective treatment against all contamination, sterilisation is.

On the other hand, experts point out that “to reduce risks, raw milk should be boiled before consumption“, which they say “achieves similar or even stronger microbicide effects than pasteurisation“. However, boiling leads to changes in taste and a greater loss of nutrients and vitamins than industrial pasteurisation treatments. In addition, we are not able to carry out the processes at home in the same way as in an industrial factory, so we cannot guarantee the same safety and efficacy against pathogens such as Salmonella. To sum up, yes, it can be consumed. But like everything else, there are some things to take into account…

Is raw milk sold in the industry free of Salmonella?

Nowadays we can find some certified farms that sell packaged raw milk (or products made from it) directly to the final consumer under the protection of Regulation (EC) Nº 853/2004 of the European Parliament. Real Decreto 1086/2020 (Spain) establishes some requirements for raw milk intended for direct sale to the consumer.

It is always essential to have satisfactory hygiene standards and to adopt preventive measures and good processing techniques on farms and dairies to prevent microbiological contamination. This is particularly important when raw, unpasteurised milk is intended for human consumption.

An example would be a farm where freshly milked milk is cooled to 3°C in less than 20 minutes, then packaged and marketed the same day. Although this reduces the chances of proliferation of pathogenic microorganisms such as Salmonella, it does NOT result in a sterile product. Therefore, the risks do exist. To reduce these risks, you may ask yourself….

How the safety against Salmonella of raw milk products can be improved?

This is key: everything can be improved, but in this particular case it is even more relevant. Amerex offers a wide range of preservatives to deal with all kinds of microorganisms, both pathogenic, as in this case with Salmonella, and non-pathogenic but equally contaminating. We can’t think of a better matrix than raw milk to apply these preservatives: it lacks heat treatment, it is very vulnerable to contamination and its formulation does not include chemical additives. The “rawness” of its manufacturing process makes it the perfect food for the use of preservatives that will definitely increase its safety and help prevent the development of microorganisms that are harmful to humans.

Do you want to know more? Are you identified with this problem in your food or process? We are available to answer your questions about safety against contamination and how to include this preservatives in your production.

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