Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains may cause human infections ranging from simple diarrhea to Haemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). The five main pathogenic serotypes of STEC (MPS-STEC) identified thus far in Europe are O157:H7, O26:H11, O103:H2, O111:H8, and O145:H28.
Because STEC strains can survive or grow during cheese making, particularly in soft cheeses, a stochastic quantitative microbial risk assessment model was developed to assess the risk of HUS associated with the five MPS-STEC in raw milk soft cheeses. A baseline scenario represents a theoretical worst-case scenario where no intervention was considered throughout the farm-to-fork continuum. The risk level assessed with this baseline scenario is the risk-based level. The impact of seven preharvest scenarios (vaccines, probiotic, milk farm sorting) on the risk-based level was expressed in terms of risk reduction. Impact of the preharvest intervention ranges from 76% to 98% of risk reduction with highest values predicted with scenarios combining a decrease of the number of cow shedding STEC and of the STEC concentration in feces. The impact of postharvest interventions on the risk-based level was also tested by applying five microbiological criteria (MC) at the end of ripening.
The five MCs differ in terms of sample size, the number of samples that may yield a value larger than the microbiological limit, and the analysis methods. The risk reduction predicted varies from 25% to 96% by applying MCs without preharvest interventions and from 1% to 96% with combination of pre- and postharvest interventions.
Frédérique Perrin, Fanny Tenenhaus-Aziza, Valérie Michel, Stéphane Miszczycha, Nadège Bel, and Moez Sanaa