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The National Food Centre - Articles and news items

What’s inside cheese?

Issue 1 2005, Past issues  •  31 January 2005  •  Dr Gerard Downey, TEAGASC, The National Food Centre, Ireland

NIR is widely used in food analysis with application to many sectors. In this article Gerry Downey addresses its value to the dairy industry.

The dairy industry is of enormous financial significance in Ireland and many other European countries and it is currently undergoing a period of large scale rationalisation into many fewer but larger production units. Concomitant decreases in employment numbers exerts pressure on the manufacturing operations to maintain high levels of quality in the wide array of products that the industry produces. Near infrared has obvious potential for addressing this issue, yet its use by the dairy sector is far from extensive. We have recently been involved in a study of the use of NIR for monitoring the quality of two types of cheese of commercial importance: Cheddar cheese and processed cheese. The results of this three-year study are currently being published but some highlights of already released material are described below.

Tools for safe food

Issue 1 2005, Past issues  •  31 January 2005  •  Geraldine Duffy and Terese Catarame, Teagasc, The National Food Centre, Ireland

The microbiological analysis of food has an important role in assessment of the quality and safety of foods. There is a direct relationship between bacterial numbers and product shelf life as growth of bacteria can result in organoleptic changes in the food, including off-colours and off-odours, rendering it unacceptable to the consumer.

The presence of pathogenic microorganisms on foods (Salmonella spp, Campylobacter, Staphyloccocus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7 etc.) poses the threat of food poisoning and recent publicity concerning food related health scares have increased consumer concerns regarding food safety. Owing to the economic implications and loss of goodwill associated with a food poisoning incident, food manufacturers recognise the necessity to provide the assurance on food safety that consumers demand. This is achieved by the implementation of food safety management systems such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) as well as by testing foods (raw material and end products) to ensure they conform to set microbiological criteria for certain microbial pathogens. These criteria may be set by regulatory authorities or by the customer (often the retailer).


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