Date of this Version
J. Dairy Sci. 100:919–932
Spore-forming bacteria are heat-resistant microorganisms capable of surviving and germinating in milk after pasteurization. They have been reported to affect the quality of dairy products by the production of enzymes (lipolytic and proteolytic) under low-temperature conditions in fluid milk, and have become a limiting factor for milk powder in reaching some selective markets. The objective of this research was to isolate and identify the population of spore-forming bacteria (psychrotrophic and thermophilic strains) associated with concentrated milk processing in Nebraska. During 2 seasons, in-process milk samples from a commercial plant (raw, pasteurized, and concentrated) were collected and heat-treated (80°C/12 min) to recover only spore-formers. Samples were spread-plated using standard methods agar and incubated at 32°C to enumerate mesophilic spore counts. Heat-treated samples were also stored at 7°C and 55°C to recover spore-formers that had the ability to grow under those temperature conditions. Isolates obtained from incubation or storage conditions were identified using molecular techniques (16S or rpoB sequencing). Based on the identification of the isolates and their relatedness, strains found in raw, pasteurized, and concentrated milk were determined to be similar. Paenibacillus spp. were associated with both raw and concentrated milk. Due to their known ability to cause spoilage under refrigeration, this shows the potential risk associated with the transferring of these problematic organisms into other dairy products. Other Bacillus species found in concentrated milk included Bacillus clausii, Bacillus subtilis, Lysinibacillus sp., Bacillus safensis, Bacillus licheniformis, Bacillus sonorensis, and Brevibacillus sp., with the last 3 organisms being capable of growing at thermophilic temperatures. These strains can also be translocated to other dairy products, such as milk powder, representing a quality problem. The results of this research highlight the importance of understanding spore-formers associated with the processing of condensed milk, which then may allow for specific interventions to be applied to control these microorganisms in this processing chain. To our knowledge, this is the first study evaluating spore-formers associated with concentrated milk in the United States.