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Cronobacter spp. (Enterobacter sakazakii) is an opportunistic bacterial pathogen capable of causing disease and even fatalities in newborn infants within the first weeks of life if consumed as part of the diet. Premature and immunocompromised newborn infants are at particular risk. The microorganism has been isolated from a variety of foods including contaminated infant milk formula powder and milk powder substitute. The study aimed to evaluate the level of microbiological contamination in 47 samples of mozzarella cheese made with cow’s milk collected from artisan cheese producers in Southern Italy. Samples were collected from commercial sales points and underwent qualitative and quantitative microbiological analyses to test for the bacterial contaminants most commonly found in milk and cheese products. The 47 samples underwent qualitative and quantitative microbiological tests according to ISO UNI EN standards. Analyses focused on Staphylococcus aures, Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Pseudomonas spp., E. coli, Yersinia spp., total coliforms and Cronobacter sakazakii. The ISO/TS 22964:2006 method was used to investigate possible contamination by C. sakazakii. Biochemical identification was carried out using an automated system for identification and susceptibility tests. None of the samples examined resulted positive for Salmonella spp. or Listeria spp. Only one sample resulted positive for Staphylococcus aureus. Pseudomonas spp. was isolated in 10 (21%) of 47 samples. High levels of total coliforms were found in 10 of 47 samples. Cronobacter spp. (Enterobacter sakazakii) was isolated in one sample. This is the first study to confirm isolation of C. sakazakii in artisan mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk. The presence of C. sakazakii could be related to external contamination during the phases of production or to the use of contaminated milk. Since mozzarella is recommended in the diet of children and adults of all ages, this present study helps define it as a potential vehicle for C. sakazakii in subjects at particular risk.
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