Sale of Raw Milk in Northern Italy: Food Safety Implications and Comparison of Different Analytical Methodologies for Detection of Foodborne Pathogens
Foodborne pathogens and disease
The safety of raw milk sold in Northern Italy was investigated in relation to hygiene quality parameters and presence of Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, thermotolerant Campylobacter, and Verocytotoxin producing Escherichia coli O157:H7. The performance of different analytical methods used-official culture method (ISO), modified Bacteriological Analytical Manual cultural method (mBAM), and polymerase chain reaction (PCR)was evaluated. The presence of Mycobacterium avium subsp.
... um subsp. paratuberculosis (Map) was investigated only by PCR. All samples met regulations for alkaline phosphatase and inhibitory substance, while 18% and 44.8% of samples collected from vending machines had, respectively, somatic cell count (SCC) > 300,000/mL and total bacterial count (TBC) > 50,000 CFU/mL. The correlation between hygienic quality parameters in samples collected from bulk tank and vending machines showed a significant increase of TBC in vending machines meaning that raw milk was mishandled during distribution and sale. All pathogens investigated were detected in raw milk sold at vending machines; a total of five samples (5%) had at least one pathogen, of which two were detected by PCR and three by mBAM. None of the samples was positive by cultural ISO methods. Even if the comparison of analytical methods showed that none performs significantly better than the others, testing a higher volume of milk (25 versus 210 mL) affects significantly the detection rate of pathogens. Three samples (3%) were positive for Map, suggesting that raw milk is a significant source of Map exposure for consumers. The observed TBC increase and the detection of several pathogenic bacteria pose questions on the safety of raw milk; the use of ISO seems inefficient in detecting a low contamination level of pathogens in milk and consequently not appropriate as official method for testing. In order to ensure consumer's safety, a new approach for the raw milk chain is required.