This study was carried out to assess the survival of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and atypical enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (aEPEC) during the traditional manufacturing and ripening of Spanish hard cheese from raw cow's milk. Milk samples were spiked with up to 3.1-3.5 log cfu/mL of one strain of STEC (O140:H32 serotype) and one of aEPEC (serotype O25:H2). The first steps of cheesemaking allow for a STEC and aEPEC increase of more than 1 log cfu/mL (up to 4.74 log cfu/g and 4.55 log cfu/g, respectively). After cheese pressing, a steady reduction of both populations was observed, with the STEC strain being more sensitive. The studied pathogenic E. coli populations decreased by 1.32 log cfu/g in STEC and 0.59 log cfu/g in aEPEC in cheese ripened during a minimum period of 60 d. Therefore, a moderate contamination by these diarrhoeagenic E. coli pathotypes, in particular, with aEPEC, on cheese manufactured from raw milk may not be totally controlled through the cheesemaking process and during a maturation of 90 d. These findings remark the importance of improvement in bacteriological quality of raw milk and cross-contamination prevention with diarrhoeagenic E. coli in the dairy industry.
Keywords: atypical EPEC; behaviour; cheese processing; diarrhoeagenic E. coli; non-O157 STEC; raw cow’s milk.