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Improvement of raw milk cheese hygiene through the selection of starter and non-starter lactic acid bacteria: The successful case of pdo pecorino siciliano cheese


This review article focuses on the technological aspects and microbiological critical points of pressed-cooked cheeses processed from raw ewe’s milk without the inoculation of starter cultures, in particular “Pecorino” cheese typology produced in Italy. After showing the composition of the biofilms adhering to the surface of the traditional dairy equipment (mainly wooden vat used to collect milk) and the microbiological characteristics of PDO Pecorino Siciliano cheese manufactured throughout Sicily, this cheese is taken as a case study to develop a strategy to improve its hygienic and safety characteristics. Basically, the natural lactic acid bacterial populations of fresh and ripened cheeses were characterized to select an autochthonous starter and non-starter cultures to stabilize the microbial community of PDO Pecorino Siciliano cheese. These bacteria were applied at a small scale level to prove their in situ efficacy, and finally introduced within the consortium for protection and promotion of this cheese to disseminate their performances to all dairy factories. The innovation in PDO Pecorino Siciliano cheese production was proven to be respectful of the traditional protocol, the final cheeses preserved their typicality, and the general cheese safety was improved. An overview of the future research prospects is also reported.