Northamptonshire scientist uncovers cheesy secret

No Caption ABCDE
No Caption ABCDE
Share this article

A researcher at the University of Northampton has helped out in a study to pinpoint exactly how blue cheese gets its distinctive pong.

Dr Kostas Gkatzionis, a researcher at the School of Health, teamed up with researchers at the University of Nottingham on the £53,000 project – funded by the Food and Drink iNet.

They discovered that a ‘secondary microflora component’ – also known as a yeast – is responsible for enhancing the smell of blue cheese.

The scientists were most interested in the production of the East Midlands’ famous blue cheeses, like Stilton.

The mould Penicillium roqueforti is added by manufacturers to produce the ‘blue’ in cheeses but researchers found that a catchily-named yeast called Y. lipolytica influences the distinct smell.

They used a team of trained sensory experts to work out which particular strain was responsible for the aroma.

Dr Gkatzionis said: “The panel was able to discriminate between samples with different yeast levels, suggesting that the variation in microbial flora was noticeable.

“Limiting aroma variation is paramount to producing more consistent blue cheeses.”

Richard Worrall, Food and Drink iNet director, said: “Ultimately, we hope this work will lead to greater consistency during production for Britain’s cheese makers, which will help them achieve a greater slice of the worldwide blue cheese market, which is worth millions.”

The research team, which was run by Dr Gkatzionis, in conjunction with his colleague Professor Carol Phillips, as well as Professor Christine Dodd and Dr Robert Linforth from the University of Nottingham, Division of Food Sciences, along with two postgraduate research students, had a £53,871 grant from the iNet for their research.