In recent years, there has been a number of health alerts for food poisoning caused by eating cheese that has been contaminated by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes and by staphylococcal enterotoxin. In addition to highlighting the lack of valid scientific references, these incidents have also cast doubts on certain microbiological criteria that, a number of years ago, various Basque government bodies agreed to use as a reference when designing and drawing up quality self-control plans based on the HACCP system for ripened cheeses made with raw milk.
Moreover, there is a huge gap when establishing food safety criteria for the production of types of cheese other than ripened cheese. This means cheeses with a ripening period below 60 days (e.g. lactic acid-coagulated cheeses and soft-paste cheeses) and even cheeses which, despite having a ripening period that exceeds 60 days, have a completely different production process to that of ripened cheese, such as blue cheese made from raw sheep milk. These types of cheese have been produced traditionally in the Basque Country, but there is a growing trend and increasing number of traditional cheese producers that are moving towards product diversification by producing different types of cheese. Within this context, the aims of the project are focused on establishing reference microbiological parameters among the different players in the industry, analysing the shelf life of each product and even designing a good manufacturing practice protocol to minimise the risk of pathogenic bacteria being present in cheeses produced with raw milk.
Management and overall coordination of the project (project leader).
Production of prototypes and performing the relevant analyses.
Dissemination and communication activities.