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Assessment of the microbiological status of raw material for the european leather industry

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Increasing microbiological safety in the European leather industry

Within the framework of the MICROSTAT project four microbial control techniques were assessed for preventing putrefactive damage to the raw material of the leather industry.

Industrial Technologies

Conventional methods for preservation of raw material heavily rely on salt usage, which may have a negative impact in arid countries or in areas with relevant restrictions. In search of alternative methods of microbial control and detection the MICROSTAT project aimed at decreased usage of and dependence on salt as a preserving medium. This could have a positive environmental effect due to less salt loading in tannery effluents. Towards this aim four microbial control techniques including Trisodium Phosphate (TSP), nisin, chilling and boric acid were assessed. These have been utilised in other industrial sectors, specifically the food sector, for reduction and elimination of microorganisms that could cause damage to raw materials. The techniques were evaluated both individually and in combination with salt in order to specify the suitability of each one as an alternative preservation method to salt. Use of TSP offered a great reduction in the bacteria numbers when used in conjunction to either a 10% or a 20% salt application, yet its use is still very expensive. Boric acid treatment was also found ineffective to lower total bacteria numbers of collegenase producing bacteria. Additionally, chilling was proven to provide a delay in the increase of bacteria numbers, for instance, cooling to 4˚C extends time before bacteria development to more than one day. Most importantly, nisin treatment was proven to be a very effective method to lower bacteria numbers particularly for Pseudomonas bacteria species. In combination to salt, it could offer a similar and even better protection against bacterial attack than salt alone. A license agreement is sought with a supplier of nicin who could be able to market these to the abattoirs and hide markets. Further research and development with an R&D institute for evaluation of other potentially effective bacteriocins is also sought.

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