On Cheeses, microbes and humans

Microbe populations in milk have been in constant decline. Even if they work with raw milk, cheese makers are obliged to inoculate the milk with cultures so as to restore the cheese flora, which transforms the milk into cheese. What happens? The documentary “On cheese, microbes and humans” presents a detailed analysis of the cheese-making evolution that took place in a variety of countries when Louis Pasteur and his collaborators highlighted the essential role microbes play in infectious diseases, and also in milk fermentation. Pierre Dornic who gave his name to an acidity measurement, wrote in 1896: « Without microbes, no cheese, no delicate and aromatic butter with a good hazelnut taste as is found in our best brands in Isigny. We should stop cursing microbes and here like everywhere, learn to distinguish between the good and the bad ones, the beneficial and harmful ones. » Are microbes dangerous pathogens or vital cheese-making component? Faced with the increasing pressure of sanitary norms as well as the modernization of dairy farms, which are accused of depleting milk of its precious microbes, cheese-makers are resisting: microbes are, for a good many small producers, a vital resource for their quest for quality, and thus contribute to the profitability of their farming activities. They criticize excessive cleanliness and hygiene practices. They are bringing back traditional materials previously considered too risky and banned from production. They are also turning to flora culturing, which in their opinion, best expresses the terroir quality of cheese. A close monitoring of risk management is being elaborated. A new way of producing is emerging, where milk is no longer just a simple raw material. Cheese makers and researchers are avid to go further and to continue to develop this unique partnership between cheese makers and microbes, at the heart of a new way of thinking about cheese quality. In doing so they are also inventing an alternative to the precautionary principle in health matters, which requires a greater level of discernment towards microbes. Réalisé par Geneviève Teil et Marie-Christine Montel

by INRA - France