Survival and detection of coliforms, Enterobacteriaceae, and gram-negative bacteria in Greek yogurt
ABSTRACT Despite the widespread use of coliforms as indicator bacteria, increasing evidence suggests that the Enterobacteriaceae (EB) and total gram-negative groups more accurately reflect the hygienic status of high-temperature, short-time pasteurized milk and processing environments. If introduced into milk as postpasteurization contamination, these bacteria may grow to high levels and produce a wide range of sensory-related defects. However, limited information is available on the use and survival of bacterial hygiene indicators in dairy products outside of pasteurized fluid milk and cheese. The goal of this study was to (1) provide information on the survival of a diverse set of bacterial hygiene indicators in the low pH environment of Greek yogurt, (2) compare traditional and alternative detection methods for their ability to detect bacterial hygiene indicators in Greek yogurt, and (3) offer insight into optimal hygiene indicator groups for use in low-pH fermented dairy products. To this end, we screened 64 bacterial isolates, representing 24 dairy-relevant genera, for survival and detection in Greek yogurt using 5 testing methods. Before testing, isolates were inoculated into plain, 0% fat Greek yogurt (pH 4.35 to 4.65), followed by a 12-h hold period at 4 ± 1°C. Yogurts were subsequently tested using Coliform Petrifilm (3M, St. Paul, MN) to detect coliforms; Enterobacteriaceae Petrifilm (3M), violet red bile glucose agar and the D-Count (bioMErieux, Marcy-l'Etoile, France) to detect EB; and crystal violet tetrazolium agar (CVTA) to detect total gram-negative bacteria. Overall, the non-EB gram-negative isolates showed significantly larger log reductions 12 h after inoculation into Greek yogurt (based on bacterial numbers recovered on CVTA) compared with the coliform and noncoliform EB isolates tested. The methods evaluated varied in their ability to detect different microbial hygiene indicators in Greek yogurt. Crystal violet tetrazolium agar detected the highest portion of coliforms, whereas EB Petrifilm detected the highest portion of EB, as well as highest portion of total gram-negative bacteria. Additionally, the D-Count method allowed for faster detection of EB in yogurt by generating results in approximately 13 h rather than the 24 h required when using EB Petrifilm and violet red bile glucose agar. Results from this study indicate that the coliform and EB groups encompass a broad range of dairy-relevant gram-negative bacteria with the ability to survive in Greek yogurt, supporting their use as microbial hygiene indicator groups in low-pH fermented dairy products.
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