Journal of Dairy Research

Research Article

Use of used vs. fresh cheese brines and the effect of pH and salt concentration on the survival of Listeria monocytogenes

Bjørn C T Schirmera1, Even Heira1, Bjørn-Arne Lindstedta2, Trond Møretrøa1 and Solveig Langsruda1 c1

a1 Nofima – Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, PO box 210, N-1431 ÅS, Norway

a2 Norwegian Institute of Public Health, PO box 4404, Nydalen, N-0403 OH, Norway


The aim of the study was to investigate how the use of fresh cheese brines compared with used brines and various combinations of pH and NaCl concentrations affected the survival of Listeria monocytogenes. Cheese brines from five Norwegian small scale cheese producers were analysed and showed great variations in pH (4·54–6·01) and NaCl concentrations (14·1–26·9 %). The survival of five strains of List. monocytogenes (two clinical isolates, two food isolates and one animal isolate) in four different cheese brines (three used and one fresh) was investigated. Results showed significant differences in survival both depending on the strains and the brines. Strains of human outbreak listeriosis cases showed greater ability to survive in the brines compared with food isolates and a List. monocytogenes reference strain (1–2 log10 difference after 200 d). All strains showed highest survival in the freshly prepared brine compared with the used brines. Molecular typing by multiple locus variable number tandem repeats analysis (MLVA) showed that there were no detectable alterations in the examined variable number tandem repeats of the genome in five strains after 200 d storage in any of the salt brines. Combined effects of pH (4·5, 5·25 and 6·0) and NaCl (15, 20 and 25 %) in fresh, filter sterilised brines on the survival of List. monocytogenes were examined and results showed that pathogen populations decreased over time in all brines. Death rates at any given NaCl concentration were highest at low pH (4·5) and death rates at any given pH were highest at low NaCl concentrations (15 %). In conclusion, the use of used brines reduced the survival of List. monocytogenes and a combination of low pH (4·5) and low salt concentrations (15 %) decreased the risk of List. monocytogenes survival compared with higher pH (5·25 or 6·0) and higher NaCl concentrations (20 or 25 %).

(Received February 28 2013)

(Accepted November 05 2013)


  • Brine;
  • cheese;
  • Listeria monocytogenes ;
  • NaCl;
  • pH;
  • MLVA


c1 For correspondence; e-mail: ealth