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In summer 2010 a large outbreak of anomalous blue coloration of mozzarella cheese was recorded in Italy and some northern European countries. Official laboratory analysis and health authorities linked the outbreak to the contamination of processing water with strains of Pseudomonas fluorescens, although several expert raised the question of how to unequivocally link the blue coloring to the presence of the micro-organism. In an attempt to set-up a method to determine whether a given Pseudomonas spp. strain is responsible of the defect, an in vitro system for the evaluation of blue colouring of mozzarella cheese intentionally contaminated with strains of Pseudomonas fluorescens. was developed The system is aimed to ascertain whether P. fluorescens strains, isolated from mozzarella cheese with anomalous blue coloration, are able to reproduce the blue coloration under controlled experimental condition. 96 trials of experimental inoculation of mozzarella cheese in different preservation liquids, were conducted using various suspension of Pseudomonas spp. (P. fluorescens ATCC 13525, P. fluorescens CFBP 3150, one P. fluorescens field strain isolated from blue-colored mozzarella cheese and P. aeruginosa ATCC 10145 as positive control) at different concentrations and incubated at different temperatures. Growth curve of all Pseudomonas spp. strains tested demonstrated that after three days of incubation the concentration was generally higher than 106 CFU/g of mozzarella cheese incubated in Tryptic Soy Broth (TSB), and higher than 105 CFU/g of mozzarella cheese incubated in preservation liquid. All mozzarella cheeses inoculated with the field strain of Pseudomonas fluorescens showed the characteristic anomalous blue coloration, which is often associated with Pseudomonas fluorescens contamination of water used during mozzarella cheesemaking. With the proposed system, which enabled a considerable amount of samples to be analysed under controlled experimental conditions and a large number of data to be generated in a short time, we demonstrated that the presence of Pseudomonas fluorescens in blue coloured mozzarella cheese is a necessary and sufficient condition.
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