Launch Of The First High Throughput Cheese Testing System

UK - A new system of screening and testing cheese can offer processors a cost effective way of driving large-scale innovation within their products, its manufacturer claims.
calendar icon 22 August 2007
clock icon 3 minute read


The miniature cheeses can subsequently be tested and analysed for relevant attributes such as flavour profile and texture properties as well as bacterial activity and viability. The system, developed at NIZO food research, makes cost effective large scale screening a reality.

During the 5th NIZO dairy conference NIZO food research launched the first high throughput cheese manufacturing system. This new screening technology, which goes by the name of the MicroCheese model, promises to boost innovation in cheese and starter cultures. It allows the manufacture of up to 600 cheeses in parallel from as little as 1.5 ml of milk each. Each Microcheese is produced from a different (micro) cheese vat and can be manufactured with a separate protocol allowing massive parallel testing and optimisation of cultures, enzymes and process conditions. Its strength lies in the fact that all key properties are identical to industrially produced cheese. In short it feels, smells and tastes like cheese.

‘The MicroCheese model system opens a vast number of opportunities in cheese research’ says Dr. Johan van Hylckama Vlieg, Principal Scientist at NIZO food research. He sees opportunities in the field of improving starter cultures and cheese ingredients as well as in assessing microbial safety aspects but also for product development in rapidly developing areas including low fat and low salt cheeses. Screening costs are dramatically reduced which for the first time makes large scale screening a cost effective reality.

The development or improvement of cheese varieties often requires (laboratory) cheese trials for the comparative analysis of starter cultures, ingredients or processing conditions. This is a laborious and expensive process limiting the number of process variations that can be tested. In the past decades efforts were made to increase this throughput which resulted in a number of model systems allowing the manufacturing of cheeses as small as 20 g. Despite the development of these models the simultaneous production of individual cheeses still formed a bottleneck in efficient screening of cheese. Clearly, real high throughput cheese manufacturing models was still lacking. With the new MicroCheese model, miniature cheeses of around 200 mg are produced with properties that can be translated one to one to industrial manufactured cheese. Protocols for various cheese types are already in place.

The interest for MicroCheese during the 5th NIZO dairy conference was huge. The Poster on its development presented by Herwig Bachmann drew the attention of a diversity of scientists from both industry and academic institutions. NIZO food research is confident that the MicroCheese will soon be a standard in the tool box of cheese researchers. The MicroCheese model was developed as part of the research program of the Kluyver Center for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation, and a patent application was filed recently.

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