Biofilm Formation and Contamination of Cheese by Nonstarter Lactic Acid Bacteria in the Dairy Environment

J Dairy Sci. 2001 Sep;84(9):1926-36. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(01)74634-6.


Defects in cheese, such as undesirable flavors, gas formation, or white surface haze from calcium lactate crystals, can result from growth of nonstarter lactic acid bacteria (NSLAB). The potential for biofilm formation by NSLAB during cheese manufacturing, the effect of cleaning and sanitizing on the biofilm, and bacterial growth and formation of defects during ripening of the contaminated cheese were studied. Stirred-curd Cheddar cheese was made in the presence of stainless steel chips containing biofilms of either of two strains of erythromycin-resistant NSLAB (Lactobacillus curvatus strain JBL2126 or Lactobacillus fermentum strain AWL4001). During ripening, the cheese was assayed for total lactic acid bacteria, numbers of NSLAB, and percentage of lactic acid isomers. Biofilms of L. curvatus formed during cheese making survived the cleaning process and persisted in a subsequent batch of cheese. The starter culture also survived the cleaning process. Additionally, L. curvatus biofilms present in the vat dislodged, grew to high numbers, and caused a calcium lactate white haze defect in cheese during ripening. On the other hand, biofilms of L. fermentum sloughed off during cheese making but could not compete with other NSLAB present in cheese during ripening. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis results verified the presence of the two biofilm strains during cheese making and in the ripening cheese. Probable contamination sites in the plant for other NSLAB isolated in the cheese were identified, thus supporting the hypothesis that resident NSLAB biofilms are a viable source of contamination in the dairy environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Calcium Compounds / analysis
  • Cheese / analysis
  • Cheese / microbiology*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Fermentation
  • Food Contamination
  • Food Handling
  • Food Microbiology
  • Isomerism
  • Lactates / analysis
  • Lactobacillus / classification
  • Lactobacillus / growth & development*
  • Lactobacillus / isolation & purification
  • Sanitation
  • Stainless Steel


  • Calcium Compounds
  • Lactates
  • Stainless Steel
  • calcium lactate