Vasileios Pothakos, Cindy Snauwaert, Paul De Vos, Geert Huys, Frank Devlieghere
School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
Previously, a considerable underestimation (+0.5–3.2 log CFU/g) on the contamination levels of psychrotrophic lactic acid bacteria (LAB) was observed for 33 retail, packaged food products stored at chilling temperature when the mesophilic enumeration technique was implemented as reference shelf-life parameter. In the present study, the microbial diversity of the dominant psychrotrophic LAB recovered after incubation of plates at 22°C for 5 days was determined using a polyphasic taxonomic approach. A total of 212 LAB isolates were identified using a combination of rep-PCR fingerprinting, amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis and pheS gene sequencing. Leuconostoc gasicomitatum, Leuconostoc gelidum, Leuconostoc spp., Lactococcus piscium and Lactobacillus algidus proved to be the most competent and predominant species that may go undetected by the widely applied mesophilic enumeration protocols (ISO 4833:2003 and ISO 15214:1998). This study has assessed the interspecific variation among potential spoilage LAB, and highlights the significance of implementing a reference shelf-life parameter based on the enumeration of the total psychrotrophic bacterial load for industrial microbiological routine analyses.