The Dairy Science and Food Technology (DSFT) website provides scientific and technological information, Cloud-based tools and consultancy services for food scientists and technologists working in industry and in colleges and universities. A discussion forum and interactive content through "On Line" calculators are also provided. Writing/citation resources including a Harvard-type reference wizard and a range of citation-wizards can also be accessed.

Commercial cheese correctly manufactured with pasteurised milk and lactic starter cultures has a well deserved reputation as a nutritious and safe product. However, under certain circumstances cheese may support the growth of food poisoning bacteria or serve as a ‘vehicle’ for their transmission.

Four pathogens are of particular significance, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella species, enteropathogenic Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureusListeria monocytogenes, the causal agent of listeriosis, is arguably the most significant of this group.

L. monocytogenes is particularly significant since it can grow / survive for long periods in cheese and cause serious illness leading to death; the death rate arising from listeriosis can exceed 30%. It can also induce abortion in humans and its ability to cross the placenta, and access the brain makes it a particularly dangerous pathogen.

 This article provides an introduction to the binary and ordinal logistic regression models developed by Bolton and Frank (1999) for predicting the probability of L. monocytogenes growing in cheese after 42 days storage at 10°C.

Characteristics of Listeria monocytogenes

L. monocytogenes is a Gram-positive, non-sporing bacterium that can grow in high salt environments (up to 10 % sodium chloride), and over a wide pH (5.0-9.6) and temperature range (< 3° – 45°C); it can grow aerobically and microaerophilically ( Bajard et al., 1996; Pearson and Marth, 1990).

Microbial testing is still important but it is critical to understand its limitations in assuring food safety.

Despite the global use of HACCP systems and a legal requirement for the use of HACCP in many jurisdictions' food poisoning remains an endemic problem and large numbers of people continue to be hospitalised, die and as a result companies either face substantial legal costs and / or in many cases are forced to cease trading.

While the use of HACCP systems significantly reduces the need for microbiological end point testing of foods, sampling schemes and microbial analysis have important roles in system validation and quality assurance. This article also provides access to three free On-Line calculators that enable the probability of detecting a pathogen in a food, the number of samples required to test to meet a food standard and how to calculate the prevalence of a pathogen when all the samples taken for testing return negative results.

This raises an issue concerning the adequacy of sampling schemes and microbial analysis in commercial food manufacture.

In September 2015 the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on a multistate outbreak of listeriosis allegedly caused by Mediterranean-type soft cheeses. Some 30 people were affected, twenty-eight people were hospitalized and three deaths were reported. However, listeria were not isolated from the cheeses produced by the manufacturer concerned.

The use of high temperature short time heat treatment (HTST) of milk (72°C for 15 seconds) to destroy pathogenic bacteria, reduce the number of spoilage organisms and increase shelf life is well established (Juffs and Deeth, 2007).

The history of pasteurization (pasteurisation is also valid) is fascinating and is notable for its public health success and for the insights of many scientists and engineers. Prior to the introduction of pasteurization, consumption of raw cow milk was a major source of infection by bacteria causing tuberculosis. Pasteurization has eliminated heat-treated-milk as a source of infection. Regrettably raw milk and raw milk products remain a major source of new cases of bovine tuberculosis.

This article calculates the effect of HTST treatment on the number of log reductions of major milk pathogens and discusses the temperature milk should be pasteurized if Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) was designated as a human

pathogen. The log reductions refer to log10 or decimal (10 fold) reductions in the concentration of viable bacteria. The article does not discuss the effects of heat on the functional properties or the nutritive quality of milk. An updated refereed version of this paper has been published (Mullan, 2019).

Scoop of ice cream

In this article we will explore how to use mix composition to control the hardness or "scoopability" of ice cream or gelato. The serving temperature which influences the concentration of ice present will also be considered. The volume of air added during freezing (overrun), the manufacturing process and the concentration and type of emulsifier can also affect hardness. 

However, these effects are generally less significant than the concentration of sweeteners used and serving temperature. This article should be read in conjunction with the article on the sweetness of ice cream. 

This article originally had the title "Goldilock's ice cream. Controlling hardness or scoopability." Goldilocks was a character from "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" a British 19th-century fairy tale and I originally thought that everyone would understand if an ice cream was acceptable to Goldilocks it had to be good! I have changed the title to reflect that many readers have not read this fairy tale and I may have been inadvertenly confusing people.

Starter bacteria in yoghurt

This article discusses the origins and role of starters in dairy fermentations, the ecology of starter bacteria, the classification of starter bacteria,  the types of starter culture used and concludes with some observations on artisanal cultures. The author has  provided a broader perspective on the use of starter cultures in food fermentations in the Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology. The chapter can be downloaded from Elsevier Ltd. This article should be read in conjunction with the article  discussing the major functions of starters in dairy fermentations and the relative importance and effectiveness of the antimicrobial agents produced by starters

This article discusses the major functions of starters in dairy fermentations. Recent research on the relative importance of the antimicrobial agents produced by starters is included. The importance of undissociated lactic acid (HLac) is discussed with regard to the inhibition of the growth of Listeria monocyotgenes, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

The author recommends that regulators should require manufacturers of raw milk cheeses to meet a minimum value for HLac that must be achieved prior to product release for retail sale.


As previously discussed (Mullan, 2016), there will be occasions when a food manufacturer who has been using two different but equivalent thermal processes from a lethality perspective wishes to use a different, but equivalent lethal thermal process. This is straightforward if the z-value is known (Mullan, 2016). How does the processor calculate the equivalent lethal process if z is unknown?

This article explains how to calculate z using the time and temperature values of the two different, but equivalent lethal processes, and provides access to a free On Line calculator for checking your calculations.

The 2017 milk pasteurisation ordnance in the US (PMO 2017) provides only two equivalent  HTST time/temperatures for pasteurising ice cream mix (Table 1). A lower temperature-time treatment of 69°C for 30 minutes is also given. Previously 3-HTST equivalent temperatures were given (PMO 2011) although a range of time values (1-3 s) was given for 90°C.

Table 1. Minimum pasteurization temperature vs. time continuous flow (HTST) pasteurization requirements for ice cream mix in the US.



80°C (175°F)

25 s

83°C (180°F)

15 s

Source: PMO (2017)

How can manufacturers calculate other equivalent or higher temperatures using this data?

These products are similar but can differ markedly from each other e.g. traditional Italian gelato is significantly different than mass produced, commercial ice cream in Ireland, GB and the US. However, high end artisan produced ice cream made using batch processes can be similar.

Traditional Italian gelato generally contains around 8% milk fat, has a low overrun usually (< 18%) and is served from a cabinet held at around -11°-12°C. The physical properties are usually different.  Because of the higher temperature of storage and the concentration of sugars, gelato is served and eaten in a highly viscous, semi-frozen state. The texture is often described as being smooth and dense. Fruit-flavoured gelato is also characterised by intense natural fruit flavours and is quite sweet although natural fruit-like sour notes may be evident.

Traditional gelato is produced using batch production methods and is generally consumed within a short time from manufacture.

While there are differences between these products the scientific principles that underpin their production are similar and in the articles that follow, I will often use the terms ice cream and gelato interchangeably. Please accept that I do not equate the quality and eating experience of traditional Italian gelato with mass-produced commercial ice cream.


Refrigerated storage of raw milk is used to limit the growth of microorganisms in milk prior to processing. It has been known for some time that the quality and yield of cheese produced from bulk cooled milk may be adversely affected by this procedure (Weatherup et al., 1988; Weatherup and Mullan, 1993). The reduced yield and poor quality may be due to physico-chemical changes in the state of several milk components e.g. dissociation of micellar casein, mainly Κ-casein into a soluble phase, occurs during the first 48 h of storage at 4° and 7° C. This results in losses of fat and curd fines, weaker curd, more moist curd and a slightly lower yield. Partial reversal of dissociation occurs after further storage. The reduced yield and quality can also be due to the activity of proteases and lipases produced by psychrotrophic bacteria.

Despite the work that has been done over many years milk is still being stored for extended periods (1-3+ days on some farms) and cheesemakers are again (2019) reporting problems with the yield and quality of cheese produced using this milk.

Following several queries related to milk quality and cheese manufacture I am providing a report written by Wilf Weatherup and me some years ago that may be helpful.

A simple calculator has been provided using the total viable count of milk prior to pasteurisation and a regression equation to predict the grade value of Cheddar cheese.


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