Pathogens and spoilage microorganisms can be transmitted to milk via dirt (e.g., feces, bedding material, soil, or a combination of these) attached to the exterior of the cows¿ teats. To determine the relevance of this pathway and to perform quantitative microbial risk analysis of the microbial contamination of farm tank milk (FTM), it is important to know the amount of dirt transmitted to milk via the exterior of teats. In this study at 11 randomly selected Dutch farms the amount of dirt transmitted to milk via the exterior of teats is determined using spores of mesophilic aerobic bacteria as a marker for transmitted dirt. The amount of transmitted dirt to milk varied among farms from 3 to 300 mg/L, with an average of 59 mg/L. The usefulness of the data for microbial risk analyses is briefly illustrated using the contamination of FTM with spores of butyric acid bacteria as a case study. In a similar way the data can be used to identify measures to control the contamination of FTM with other microorganisms or chemical residues.
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