Compromised Lactobacillus helveticus starter activity in the presence of facultative heterofermentative Lactobacillus casei DPC6987 results in atypical eye formation in Swiss-type cheese

Daniel J. O'Sullivan, Paul L.H. McSweeney, Paul D. Cotter, Linda Giblin, Jeremiah J. Sheehan

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24 Scopus citations


Nonstarter lactic acid bacteria are commonly implicated in undesirable gas formation in several varieties, including Cheddar, Dutch-, and Swiss-type cheeses, primarily due to their ability to ferment a wide variety of substrates. This effect can be magnified due to factors that detrimentally affect the composition or activity of starter bacteria, resulting in the presence of greater than normal amounts of fermentable carbohydrates and citrate. The objective of this study was to determine the potential for a facultatively heterofermentative Lactobacillus (Lactobacillus casei DPC6987) isolated from a cheese plant environment to promote gas defects in the event of compromised starter activity. A Swiss-type cheese was manufactured, at pilot scale and in triplicate, containing a typical starter culture (Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus helveticus) together with propionic acid bacteria. Lactobacillus helveticus populations were omitted in certain vats to mimic starter failure. Lactobacillus casei DPC6987 was added to each experimental vat at 4 log cfu/g. Cheese compositional analysis and X-ray computed tomography revealed that the failure of starter bacteria, in this case L. helveticus, coupled with the presence of a faculatively heterofermentative Lactobacillus (L. casei) led to excessive eye formation during ripening. The availability of excess amounts of lactose, galactose, and citrate during the initial ripening stages likely provided the heterofermentative L. casei with sufficient substrates for gas formation. The accrual of these fermentable substrates was notable in cheeses lacking the L. helveticus starter population. The results of this study are commercially relevant, as they demonstrate the importance of viability of starter populations and the control of specific nonstarter lactic acid bacteria to ensure appropriate eye formation in Swiss-type cheese.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2625-2640
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Ireland) under the Food Institutional Research Measure through the Cheeseboard 2015 project. Daniel J. O’Sullivan is in receipt of a Teagasc Walsh Fellowship (Grant Number: 2012205 ). The authors acknowledge Colin Grimes and Juliet Wiley for technical assistance with cheese trials and compositional analysis, Paula O’Connor for amino acid analysis and Helen Slattery for carbohydrate analysis (all from Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland). The authors also acknowledge Brendan Phelan at South Eastern Applied Materials (SEAM; Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland) for CT scanning and image analysis.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Dairy Science Association.


  • Gas defects
  • Heterofermentative lactobacilli
  • Swiss-type cheese
  • X-ray computed tomography


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