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International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137 – 149

Microbiology of wheat and flour milling in Australia
Lana K. Berghofer a, Ailsa D. Hocking a,*, Di Miskelly b,c, Edward Janssona,1

Food Science Australia, P.O. Box 52, North Ryde, NSW 1670, Australia
Allied Mills, P.O. Box 1, Summer Hill, NSW 2130, Australia
Quality Wheat CRC, Locked Bag No. 1345, North Ryde, NSW 1670, Australia
Received 19 April 2002; received in revised form 30 October 2002; accepted 10 November 2002

A survey was undertaken to determine the microbiological status of Australian wheat and the distribution of microorganisms
in the flour milling fractions and end products. A total of 650 milling process and end product samples was obtained from nine
flour mills located in New South Wales (4), Queensland (2), Victoria (2) and Western Australia (1) during the 1997 – 1998 and
1998 – 1999 wheat seasons. Most frequent (modal) counts in wheat and flour were, respectively, as follows: aerobic mesophilic
plate count, 105 and 102 colony forming units/gram (cfu/g); coliforms, 10 and 1 most probable number/gram (MPN/g); Bacillus
spp., 104 and 102 cfu/g; B. cereus, 1 and 0.1 MPN/g; mesophilic aerobic spores, 10 and 1 cfu/g; aerobic thermophiles, both 10
cfu/g; yeasts, 103 and 102 cfu/g, and moulds, 103 and 102 cfu/g. Bacillus spp., coliforms, yeasts and moulds were the most
frequently detected microorganisms throughout the survey. The most common moulds isolated were Aspergillus, Penicillium,
Cladosporium and Eurotium spp. Environmental serovars of Salmonella were isolated from two samples. Escherichia coli and
B. cereus were present at very low levels, a majority of positive samples being at the minimum level of detection (3 and 0.3
MPN/g, respectively). As wheat grain layers are separated, surface-adhering contaminants are concentrated in end product bran,
wheat germ and pollard, which comprise the outer layers of the grain. Consequently, the inner endosperm fraction contains
lower microbial counts, and flour is the cleanest end product of the milling process. Higher microbiological counts midstream in
the milling process indicate that equipment contamination may contribute to microbiological contamination; however, the
microbiological quality of incoming wheat has a strong influence on the ultimate quality of milling end products.
D 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Wheat; Flour; Flour milling; Bran; Wheat germ; Coliforms; Escherichia coli; Bacillus cereus; Bacillus spp.; Yeasts; Moulds;

1. Introduction
Flour is generally regarded as a microbiologically
safe product as it is a low water activity commodity.
* Corresponding author. Fax: +61-2-9490-8581.
E-mail address: (A.D. Hocking).
Current address: SafeFood NSW, 179 Elizabeth Street, Sydney,
NSW 2000, Australia.

Although the growth of pathogenic bacteria may not
be supported under such conditions, pathogens that
contaminate flour may survive for extended periods.
There are few reported incidents of food poisoning
resulting from contaminated flour. Australian, European and US studies indicate that Salmonella spp.,
Escherichia coli, Bacillus cereus and spoilage microorganisms are present in wheat and flour at low levels
(Cicognani et al., 1975; Ottogalli and Galli, 1979;

0168-1605/02/$ - see front matter D 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

reduction rolls and sifters can sometimes lead to buildup of flour residues inside equipment. 1961). Bacillus spp. aw 0. grinding and sifting operations to separate endosperm from outer grain layers. 1958. pollard and wheat germ. but sometimes for up to 24 – 36 h. Inner endosperm fractions are ground to produce semolina. grains are broken open and undergo a sequence of reduction. end product flour. The one Australian published study on the microbiological status of Australian flour and the effects of milling procedures tested only 24 samples (Eyles et al. yeasts. The mill locations that were chosen were geographically diverse to encompass most of the major wheat-growing areas. Substantial amounts of data were generated in the USA by Hesseltine and Graves (1966). 1989. before wheat enters the mill. 1993). and mills with recently installed milling technology. however. There is little information on the microflora of Australian wheat and flour or the influence of milling practices on the microbiological quality and safety of flour and other end products. NSW. This increases the plasticity of the outer bran layer of the grain. A total of seven sampling rounds was completed. 2. for mesophilic aerobic plate count. There may also be a significant body of data from ongoing monitoring and quality assurance by the flour milling industry that is not in the public domain. In each ‘round’ of testing. thermophilic aerobic plate count. preventing it from fracturing during milling and ensuring easier separation from the endosperm (flour) later in the milling process. wheat after conditioning. may become established in these moister residues. Samples of 100– 500 g were collected in plastic airtight bags.K. but generally consisted of the following: wheat prior to conditioning.68– 070. water is added. where flour was implicated. usually overnight.65) to prevent development of fungal growth. coliforms. employees from each of the nine mills collected between 8 and 14 samples throughout their regular milling process. The mills included those using older milling equipment. Outer grain layers comprising bran. 2. They were stored at 1 jC and tested. Microorganisms.2. Such dry wheat is unsuitable for milling as it is too brittle. conditioned wheat is held in large conditioning bins. 1989). nature and distribution of spoilage and pathogenic microflora through certain mill fractions. and examine the influence of various stages of the milling process on the microbiological quality of end product flour. North Ryde. Four mills were located in New South Wales. This study was undertaken to investigate the level.40 and 0. moulds. so moisture condensation in the break rolls. the relevance of this study to current Australian flour milling practices is limited. Flour milling begins with cleaning and scouring of wheat grains to separate and remove non-wheat material. Materials and methods 2. Berghofer et al. mesophilic aerobic spores. and then flour. Sample points chosen by the participating mills varied. Microbiological testing Samples were transported at ambient temperature to Food Science Australia. grist after first break. E. 1986. To ensure even penetration of water into the bran layer. These operations create a considerable amount of heat. During milling.. In 1952. spanning the 1997– 1998 and 1998– 1999 wheat harvests.. depending on wheat type and initial moisture content.. cereus. The sampling period commenced in November 1997 and concluded during June 1999. Eyles et al. grist after fine reduction. causing contamination of the mill products. two in Victoria and one in Western Australia. aw between 0. B. semolina. Commercial milling survey Nine flour mills from three Australian milling companies were sampled on a rotational basis.1. Australian wheat is stored under dry conditions (usually 8 –12% moisture. but the organism was never isolated from the suspected flour (Anonymous. Richter et al. grist after coarse reduction. After initial cleaning. / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 Spicher. within 48 h of collection.. coli and Salmonella . usually within 7 days of receipt. an outbreak of Salmonella Paratyphi B phage type 1 occurred in New South Wales. two in Queensland. The amount of water is carefully calculated from the initial moisture content of the wheat (usually measured by NIR spectrometry). to increase the moisture content of the wheat to 14 – 15%. usually by means of a fine spray. Dack. bran. approximately every 9– 10 weeks. particularly fungi. Australia.138 L. wheat germ and pollard are removed by sifting.

Each flask was heat treated at 80 jC for 30 min. Moulds were identified to genus using the methods of Pitt and Hocking (1997). coli testing was conducted in accordance with Australian Standard 1766. Thermophilic aerobic viable counts were tested with PCA using the pour plate technique. Switzerland) or Aqualab CX-3 dew point instrument (Decagon. cereus enumeration followed the Australian Standard 1766. 3. Aerobic.K.standards. Results and discussion 3. Bacillus spp.1 (Standards Australia. Serial 10-fold dilutions were then prepared using 0. Isolation of yeasts and moulds followed Australian Standard 1766. Mesophilic aerobic spores and thermophilic aerobes were commonly detected in wheat before and after conditioning and in end product bran. North MO. South Australia. The water activity of all samples was measured using a Novasina Humidat-RC analyser (Novasina. API 20E identification kits (bioMe´rieux.2.2 (Standards Australia. Table 1).1% peptone solution. spore-forming rods were counted as Bacillus spp. microbial levels were generally low. the most frequently detected microbes. Testing for Salmonella spp. Presumptive isolates were then sent to the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science in Adelaide. catalase-positive. Dilutions and homogenates were tested with plate count agar (PCA) using the pour plate technique (Standards Australia. 1991b).1. Coliform and E. and thermophilic aerobes ceased after round 6 as very low numbers were consistently obtained. moulds. Australia. Microflora survey Target microorganisms were detected in milling and end products at varying levels. Most products at all stages of the milling process contained coliforms (70 – 98%).1% aqueous peptone solution. Table 4 provides a comparison of the quality of flour milled from wheat with low and high mesophilic aerobic counts. Marcy L’Etoile. coliforms and Bacillus spp. St Louis. 1992). but were low in end product flour (modes = 1 and 10 cfu/g. Pullman.6 MPN method (Standards Australia. For mesophilic aerobic spore testing (adapted from Stevenson and Segner.2.1. Berghofer et al. . Although most samples contained a varied population (Tables 2 and 3).2. Spore production was confirmed by microscopic examination. with yeasts. USA) for enrichment of homogenates and dilutions. Zurich. 1991e). France) were used to confirm presumptive colonies and identify Salmonella to genus level.L. using 25-g samples. 1997) using dichloran rose-bengal chloramphenicol (DRBC) agar and dichloran 18% glycerol (DG18) agar. vegetative cells and spores were enumerated by spread-plating homogenates and dilutions onto dextrose tryptone agar (DTA) following Australian Standard 1766. An initial dilution was prepared from each sample using 25-g sample and 225-ml 0. NSW. pH 7. Plates were incubated at 30 jC for 72 h and colonies counted. Washington. (70 – 94%) and B. Further information on Australian Standard methods is available on the Standards Australia website (http://www.3 three tube MPN method (Standards Australia. Bacillus spp.4 (Standards Australia. Plates were incubated aerobically for 48 h 139 and colonies typical of mesophilic aerobic spore formers counted. All control cultures were obtained from the CSIRO Food Science culture collection (FRR). Tables 2 and 3 illustrate the range and modal (most frequently occurring) counts obtained for all microorganisms at each stage of the milling process. Samples were rehydrated at room temperature for 15 min prior to homogenising.2. 1991a). for serotyping.1 (Oxoid bacteriological peptone). cereus (64 – 94%.5 (Standards Australia. Aerobic mesophilic counts were performed following Australian Standard 1766. 1991c). 10 ml of the initial 1:10 dilution was placed into a 250-ml flask containing 100 ml of DTA. Gram-positive. B.2. DTA plates were incubated aerobically at 37 jC for 48 h. Examination for Salmonella spp. Table 1 shows a comparison of the percentage of positive samples as a proportion of the total number tested for each organism. cooled and poured into five sterile Petri dishes. 1992). All microbiological media used were purchased from Oxoid Australia unless otherwise stated and prepared as per supplier’s instructions. respectively). 1991d) using double-strength tryptone soya broth containing polymyxin B sulphate ( USA). was in accordance with Australian Standard 1766. Dilutions and homogenates were incubated aerobically at 55 jC for 72 h. / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 spp.

Detection limit 0. Detection limit 3 MPN/g.140 L.g a b c d e f g N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode Colony forming units/gram (cfu/g) sample. B. Most probable number/gram (MPN/g) sample. Detection limit 100 cfu/g.3 MPN/g. cereusc.b B. Detection limit 1 cfu/g.a.d Bacillus spp. Berghofer et al.b Aerobic mesophiles Coliformsc. range and mode (most frequently occurring log10 value) of microbiological counts detected in milling process samples Organism a. / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 Table 1 Percentage of milling process and end product samples positive for the presence of the various classes of microorganisms tested Organism % Positive samples Wheat Coliforms E.K.g Mouldsa. colic.b Yeastsa. Wheat After conditioning First break Fine reduction 58 101 – 106 105 58 100 – 103 101 58 < 100 < 100 58 102 – 107 104 58 10 1 – 101 100 58 100 – 103 101 46 101 – 103 101 58 102 – 105 103 58 102 – 105 103 90 102 – 107 104 90 100 – 103 101 90 100 – 102 100 90 102 – 107 102 90 10 1 – 101 10 1 90 100 – 102 101 71 101 – 103 101 90 102 – 106 103 90 102 – 106 103 54 101 – 106 104 54 100 – 103 101 54 100 – 101 100 54 102 – 105 102 54 10 1 – 102 10 1 54 100 – 102 100 41 101 – 103 101 54 102 – 103 102 54 102 – 106 102 43 101 – 105 103 43 100 – 103 100 43 100 100 43 102 – 105 102 43 10 1 – 101 100 43 100 – 102 100 33 101 – 102 101 43 102 – 103 102 43 102 – 104 102 .d E.f Aerobic thermophilesa. coli Bacillus spp. Detection limit 10 cfu/g. cereus Mesophilic aerobic spores Aerobic thermophiles Yeasts Moulds After conditioning First break Fine reduction Flour Bran Wheat germ 93 0 91 81 95 93 14 83 64 98 70 4 76 78 87 81 5 70 70 79 82 1 65 93 77 89 4 94 94 94 98 11 82 64 93 50 65 61 35 29 53 6 100 100 97 99 76 94 40 93 45 96 92 96 66 100 Table 2 Number of samples (N).e Mesophilic aerobic sporesa.

The incidence of Wallemia sebi in conditioned wheat was higher than on incoming wheat (Table 5). 141 Eighty-one percent of incoming wheat samples tested positive for B. Environmental serovars S. except that microbiological counts in mills in Queensland.d Bacillus spp.e Mesophilic aerobic sporesa.K. 3.b Coliformsc. were present in higher numbers in end product bran and wheat germ. Detection limit 10 cfu/g.L. b . contaminating otherwise ‘clean’ product. Penicillium. Aureobasidium and Cladosporium spp. indicating a significant degree of field contamination.b Yeastsa. coli was detected sporadically at low levels. were common throughout (Table 5). Proposed microbiological quality guideline for flour (refer to Table 6). Hvittingvoss were detected in two milling samples (< 0. were slightly higher than the other mills (results not shown). Alternaria and Fusarium were generally detected in lower numbers in end products than on incoming wheat. Detection limit 100 cfu/g. No Salmonella was detected in any end product. E. observed at particular stages of the milling process and in end products. a majority of samples contained less than one spore per gram. Storage moulds. Passage of microorganisms through the milling process Figs. / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 Table 3 Number of samples (N). Detection limit 3 MPN/g.g Mouldsa. B. range and mode (most frequently occurring log10 value) of microbiological counts detected in end products Organism Aerobic mesophilesa.b B. A higher proportion of end products tested positive for B. so contamination probably occurred during the conditioning process.g a b c d e f g N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode N Range Mode Flour Bran Wheat germ 71 101 – 107 102 71 100 – 103 100 71 100 100 71 102 – 105 102 71 10 1 – 101 10 1 71 100 – 103 100 55 101 – 102 101 71 102 – 103 102 71 102 – 103 102 54 102 – 107 104 54 100 – 101 101 54 100 – 101 100 54 102 – 105 104 54 10 1 – 102 100 54 100 – 102 101 43 101 – 104 101 54 102 – 104 102 54 102 – 103 102 43 101 – 106 104 43 100 – 103 101 43 100 100 43 102 – 105 104 43 10 1 – 101 10 1 43 100 – 102 100 27 101 – 102 101 43 102 – 105 102 43 102 – 105 102 Colony forming units/gram sample. Comparable results (not shown) were obtained for the distribution Table 4 The quality of flour milled from wheat with low and high mesophilic aerobic counts Range of mesophilic aerobic countsa Wheat Resulting flour 101 – 103 104 – 106 7  101 – 4  103 2  102 – 7  107 a Number of millings Number of flour samples containing >104 cfu/g mesophilic aerobic countb 28 27 0 6 cfu/g. colic.3 MPN/g. Similarly. Yeast and moulds were frequently detected at all stages of the milling process (Tables 2 and 3). cereus (93% of flour and 94% of bran samples). particularly Eurotium. cereus counts and yeast and mould counts. Although B. indicating that the conditioning bins and equipment may be a source of contamination. where the weather is warmer. cereus was frequently detected throughout the process. Detection limit 0. 1– 3 show a comparison of the distribution of mesophilic aerobic counts.2. There was no obvious difference in microbiological quality of products from mills using older style equipment to the newest mills in the survey (results not shown). cereus spores are also present in milling equipment.5% of 412 samples). Detection limit 1 cfu/g.d E. usually in the early stages of milling or in end products derived from the outer grain layers.f Aerobic thermophilesa. Incoming grain rarely contained E. indicating B. cereusc. Aspergillus. Berghofer et al. Chester and S. Field fungi such as Aureobasidium.a. geography had little impact. Most probable number/gram sample. coli. cereus (Table 1).

as mesophilic aerobic spore numbers were generally three to four log units lower (Table 2).d.d. n. A comparison of the milling of high and low microbiological quality wheats and their respective end product flour showed wheat of low microbiological quality yields flour with high microbial loads and vice versa (Table 4). water can encourage microbial growth in residues on mill machinery.= not detected. up to a maximum of 107 (Fig. a n.d.d.d. 2 n.d.d.d. n. Cladosporium. of coliforms. with end product flour having the lowest viable counts. n. Berghofer et al. 1). Thermophiles and coliforms.1. n. coli (1 MPN/g) and B. Higher mesophilic aerobic counts were more frequent after . / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 Table 5 Percentage of wheat and end product samples containing identified fungal genera Genus Wheat before conditioning (n = 58) Wheat after conditioning (n = 90) Flour (n = 81) Bran (n = 54) Wheat germ (n = 42) Aureobasidium Cladosporium Alternaria Fusarium Penicillium Aspergillus Eurotium Wallemia Endomyces Trichoderma Epicoccum Rhizopus Mucor Absidia Paecilomyces Scopulariopsis Geotrichum Trichothecium Ulocladium Curvularia Drechslera 91 53 12 17 43 63 26 7 3 2 5 2 2 n. indicating that there are definite shifts in these populations during the milling process.d n.d. were of minor importance. Most Bacillus spp.d.a 2 n. There was also considerable variation in the quality of incoming wheat from different geographical areas.K. 2 n. n. n. Wheat quality is of high importance to flour quality. Incoming wheat Incoming wheat provides a prime contamination source for end products.2. Mesophilic aerobic spore counts (m = 10 cfu/g) were low on wheat before conditioning compared with other spoilage organisms. n. entered the milling process on incoming wheat as vegetative cells. 2 2 3 2 75 39 7 2 51 60 18 27 14 4 4 4 n. 2 5 n. n. As outer grain layers are removed from the grain. n. The modal (m) aerobic mesophilic count was 105 cfu/g. coli and B. n.d. 52 30 15 5 57 56 33 2 7 2 n. Penicillium and Aureobasidium (Table 5).d. n.d.d.d.142 L. 4 n. although higher in wheat than in subsequent milling samples (m = 101 cfu/g). n. n. with wheat from hotter. Salmonella was not detected on wheat before conditioning (Table 2).d. n. Bacillus spp. n.d. n. 3. wetter areas generally carrying the highest microbial loads (data not shown). with 55% of samples containing counts greater than or equal to 104 cfu/g. Mould genera entering the milling system on wheat most frequently comprised Aspergillus.d. (m = 104 cfu/g). 3.d.d.2.d.2. Modal E.d.d. Bacillus spp.d.d. 15 32 9 4 65 68 22 1 4 2 2 4 2 4 n. cereus (1 MPN/g) counts were low on wheat before conditioning. cereus were detected at their minimum detection level or one log unit higher in the majority of samples. 36 32 9 2 70 68 47 7 20 2 5 5 n.d. 1 1 1 1 0 n. and mesophilic aerobic spores.d. E.d. yeasts and moulds (m = 103 cfu/g for both) constitute a significant proportion of the microbial population of incoming wheat (Table 2). Conditioning In milling operations. n.d. so too are microbial contaminants.

L.K. Berghofer et al. . 1. Distribution of aerobic mesophilic counts in milling process and end products showing the percentage of samples positive at each log10 value. / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 143 Fig.

144 L. Berghofer et al. 2. cereus in milling process and end products showing the percentage of samples positive at each log10 value. Distribution of B.K. . / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 Fig.

3. / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 145 Fig. Yeasts: .L. Berghofer et al.K. . moulds: n. Distribution of yeasts and moulds in milling process and end products showing the percentage of samples positive at each log10 value.

The populations of Bacillus spp. . The modal Bacillus spp. 1). Break and reduction steps Modal counts remained similar for many microorganisms. coli was detected in previously uncontaminated wheat. conditioning influenced the range and maximum counts in wheat products. 1997). Victoria. and a combined National average. cereus. cereus counts generally decreased after conditioning. mesophilic aerobic spores.72 aw for growth (Pitt and Hocking. 3). with the mode moving from 100 to 10 1 MPN/g (Table 2). After conditioning. but the number of samples containing high counts after break and reduction steps reduced substantially (Table 2). sebi).146 L. Although the modal count of most microbial populations (thermophiles. Berghofer et al. although the incidence of W. The low proportion of storage moulds (6% of the total mould population was W. increasing the range detected from 100 to 102 MPN/g (Table 2). coliforms. B..90 aw and most moulds >0. and the percentage of samples containing fungal counts 103 cfu/g or greater decreased by up to 26% (Fig.75 (Fig. with the range of E. Most bacterial species require >0. The number of samples with high B. the observed increases in microbial load were most likely the result of contamination from encrusted grain dust and residues inside the bins. Inspection of some mills during the survey detected build-up of grain residues in conditioning augers. coli counts the most affected (Table 2).2. 4. As product holding times are relatively short (8– 36 h) and the maximum aw found during conditioning was 0. yeast and mould counts decreased as Fig. This was probably due to transfer from poorly cleaned conditioning bins and equipment. Queensland and Western Australia.K. elevators and storage bins. however. 4). count decreased from 104 to 102 cfu/g after conditioning (Table 2). 3. Aspergillus and Cladosporium. / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 conditioning. indicates that such mould growth is not of great concern to overall product quality.3. Samples with 104 cfu/g or greater increased from 56% to 73% after conditioning (Fig. yeast) remained similar to those in incoming wheat. Average water activities of milling and end products for mills located in New South Wales. E. The most frequent mould genera were Penicillium. yeasts and moulds were reduced after conditioning. sebi in conditioned wheat suggests this mould may be present in conditioned wheat storage bins (Table 5).

3.2. Potus and Suchet. International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods. / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 product passed through break. E. yeast and mould counts obtained in this survey are similar to those reported from the USA and generally better than those reported for Europe. Spicher (1986) reported German flour contained mean counts of 104 cfu/g. 1986. 1975. Richter et al. 1975. after this process (Figs. (1993) reported Salmonella in 1. 1989. Based on the results obtained in this survey. however.32% of 3040 samples made from Table 6 Proposed achievable microbiological quality for flour. possibly because it is a composite of fractions from several areas of the mill. 3. coliform and fungal counts to those reported for German flour (Cicognani et al. cereus Mesophilic aerobic spores Yeasts and moulds Acceptable quality limit (cfu/g) Flour Germ 4 6 < 10 < 102 < 10 < 10 < 102 < 103 < 10 < 103 < 10 < 10 < 103 < 104 Bran < 105 < 103 < 10 < 10 < 102 < 104 . coli B. comparable with that of incoming wheat (105 cfu/g) (Table 2). coliform counts of 102 cfu/g and mould counts of 103 cfu/g. coli and B. Quality guidelines for Australian milling products Microbiological guidelines for flour have been proposed for various countries (Cicognani et al. The maximum count observed for total Bacillus spp..K. Samples with aerobic mesophilic counts 104 cfu/g or greater and yeast and mould counts 103 or greater decreased by 43% and 73%. Berghofer et al. Parpaiola. coliform. End products Modal counts were substantially reduced for nearly all organisms in end product flour (Table 3). respectively. 2). Only small reductions were observed between fine reduction stages and end product flour. 1 and 3). and yeast counts from 106 to 103 cfu/g after fine reduction (Table 2. Mesophilic spore former counts in flour were one log unit lower (Tables 2 and 3). One sample of end product flour contained 9 MPN/g E. cereus count in end product flour decreased by one log unit (Tables 2 and 3). indicating that physical removal of microorganisms during break stages exerts the greatest influence over microbial levels in end product flour. The proportion of yeast and mould counts 103 cfu/g or greater decreased by 88% compared with wheat before conditioning. Spicher. although the maximum value detected did decrease from 102 to 101 cfu/g (Table 2). Only six flour samples contained aerobic mesophilic counts greater than the proposed limit of 104 cfu/g.. The number of flour samples containing Bacillus spp. The modal aerobic mesophilic count was 102 cfu/g in flour compared with 105 cfu/g in wheat before conditioning (Tables 2 and 3). coliforms. Salmonella was not detected in Australian flour during this survey. cereus counts were reduced after fine reduction with counts equal to or greater than 101 decreasing by 48% (Fig. Richter et al. Figs. Italian flour contained similar total aerobic. Figs. Modal total aerobic counts in bran and wheat germ were 104 147 cfu/g (Table 3). Ninety to ninety-five percent of samples assayed fell within these limits. also decreased from 107 to 105 cfu/g (Table 2). 2 and 3). Viable counts. Bacillus spp. 1993. Ottogalli and Galli. Viable aerobic mesophilic counts. and mesophilic aerobic spores were often higher in wheat germ than the other outer grain fractions (Table 3). B. 1989. and yeasts decreased by 26% and 55% compared with wheat entering the mill. coli was largely unaffected by break steps. wheat germ and bran Microorganism Mesophilic aerobes Coliforms E. depending on wheat type. These samples were all milled from wheat with high total aerobic counts (Table 4). The modal B.4.. cereus than bran. coli (Table 3). Wheat germ had lower counts of E. coarse and fine reduction stages (Table 2. The maximum aerobic mesophilic count decreased from 107 to 106. 3. The mode and maximum counts for all microorganisms decreased by one to three log units compared with levels in early milling stages (Tables 2 and 3).L. Bran is often heavily contaminated. (1993) found US flour contained mean counts of 103 –104 cfu/g. Potus and Suchet (1989) detected 104 cfu/g total aerobes and 103 cfu/g moulds in French flour. an indication of the quality of Australian flour that can be achieved with good manufacturing practice is presented in Table 6. 1 and 3). 1998). 1979). A survey by Richter et al.

. but Richter et al. The microbiological status of Australian flour and the effects of milling procedures on the microflora of wheat and flour.. M.D. Economic Botany 20..F.. Cicognani. The approach provides a framework for comparing equivalency of different control measures.. G. As wheat grain layers are separated. 1961. Berghofer et al. 1975.. cereus commonly occurs in Australian wheat flour. Cereal Chemistry 44. 1958. coli. Variables within the milling process and residue build up in milling plant and equipment also constitute a significant source of microbiological contamination. The approach uses the concept of a Food Safety Objective (FSO) as a functional link between risk assessment and risk management. 9 – 10. 1966. C. R. The data generated in this work can form the basis for setting critical levels and for the development of control measures to be applied in HACCP systems for flour and other mill products to meet a given FSO. adversely affecting end product quality. Hesseltine. References Anonymous. wheat germ and pollard. Increases in microbial levels in certain midstream products indicate that in some mills.8% of US flour and 22% of US durum wheat flour contained E. C.. surface-adhering contaminants are concentrated in end product bran. then subsequent control measures may be milder. The participation in the milling survey and generous assistance of GoodmanFielder Milling and Baking. R. Flours with higher microbial counts were usually derived from wheat of poorer micro- biological quality.. For example. 88 – 91.. Our results and those of Eyles et al. at the time of consumption. The quality of Australian flour compares favourably with that of the USA and European nations. The inner semolina fraction contains low microbial counts.R.. if the critical level of a hazard in a food is low. (1989) indicate B.W. particularly spore-forming species. A search for organisms of the Salmonella group in wheat and flour. Public health significance of flour bacteriology. Rogers. The authors thank Ms.M. Microbiology of flours. G. 288 – 299. 60 – 64. Caratteristiche microbiologiche delle farine di frumento (Microbiological characteristics of wheat flour). (1967) found E. Montana Bulletin of the Ministry of Health and Public Health Laboratory Service 41. R. cereus in flour. The literature contains little information on the incidence of B. Food Australia 41.. 156 – 168. 704 – 708. but still allows flexibility in their application. Pedretti. A. coli. Moss. A.W.R.K. C.J. Conclusions The microbiological quality of the incoming wheat has a strong bearing on the ultimate quality of milling end products. Attention to mill hygiene is an important factor in the production of flour and other fractions with low microbial counts. Hocking. Eyles. One advantage of this approach is that it delivers the desired outcome of control measures that may be applied throughout the food chain. microorganisms. Control measures include controlling the critical level of a hazard. Dack. 2000). 1989. Graves. R. Hesseltine. reducing the level of a hazard and preventing an increase of a hazard. (1993) reported 12. at the level of 9 MPN/g.. Bacterial and actinomycete flora of Kansas – Nebraska and Pacific North-West wheat and wheat flour. A. 4. Graves. Industrie Alimentari 14 (7/8).. Graves et al. An FSO is the maximum concentration and/or frequency of hazard in a food that.. Cereal Science Today 6. / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 various types of US wheat. Bunge-Defiance Milling and Weston Milling is greatly appreciated. Acknowledgements This project was funded by the Quality Wheat Cooperative Research Centre. Cathy Moir and Ms. Nancy Jensen for critical review of this manuscript. 3. Food Safety Objectives for the flour milling industry The International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) has recently proposed a preventative approach for managing microbial hazards in foods (International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods. coli in only 1 of 16 US flour samples.4. Only one sample of Australian flour contained E. Cerrato. 1967. may reside in equipment.J. will provide an appropriate level of public health protection.148 L. and end product flour is the cleanest end product of the milling process. Lyons. but usually at low levels.

Compendium of Methods for the Microbiological Examination of Foods. Dorneanu.. Microbiological quality of flours. Food Microbiology and Technology. G. 1991b.2..2.M. Fungi and Food Spoilage. General procedures and techniques. Food Microbiology.B.2... W.1: Standard plate count. Blackie Academic and Professional. Australian Standard. Christian. American Public Health Association (APHA) Technical Committee on Microbiological Methods for Foods. 265 – 274.). Parma. 2002. Mesophilic aerobic sporeformers.2. 149 Standards Australia. Splittstoesser.D... G. 1766. DC. 1766. 1766.1.3: Coliforms and Escherichia coli. Industries des Cereales 58.. J. New York.3: Colony count – pour plate method.. Cereal Foods World 38. (Eds.2. Standards Australia. In: Vanderzant. 367 – 369.. Australian Standard. 1991d. Suchet. Spicher. 449.1.2. Galli. 1992. Potus. K.6: Bacillus cereus. Standards Australia. Standards Australia. London. C.K. Standards Australia. K. P. Food Microbiology.E. Pitt. Washington. Segner. D. Australian Standard. Michener. Tabiabo (Parma) Italy. Standards Australia. 2nd ed. Food Microbiology. J. B. pp. 1993. 1986. C.P. 1766. Medicinia Viva...). 1766. H. Stevenson. 1766. 1766. Tecnica Molitoria 40. Australian Standard.5: Salmonellae. 1766.S. Examination for specific organisms. 1997.2. Rao. April 20 – 23.S. Microorganisms in Foods: 6 Microbial Ecology of Commodities.I. Food Microbiology. 1766. General procedures and techniques. Die Mu¨hle & Mischfuttertechnik 33. 1766. Eskridge.2 (1997) Colony count of yeasts and moulds. 1997. 1989..1.. Australian Standard.. In: Jarvis. D. J. 1992. K.. Chapter 18. (Eds.. Hocking. 1989. International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods.2.2. American Public Health Association. Australian Standard.L. Gaithersburg. Microorganisms in Foods: 7 Microbiological Testing in Food Safety Management. USA. 1766. A. Ottogalli. Examination for specific organisms.. 141 – 153. Examination for specific organisms. 1766. Food Microbiology. 1998. 1991e. 1991a. Aspen Publishing. Examination for specific organisms. Merkpunkte fu¨r die Beurteilung der mikrobiologisch-hygienischen Qualita¨t von Weisenmehlen (Judging the microbiological-hygienic quality of white flour). Food Microbiology. Italy. 1766. .4: Colony count – surface spread method. E. / International Journal of Food Microbiology 85 (2003) 137–149 International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods. Food Microbiology. 681 – 691. 1978. Chapter 8. A. Australian Standard. Les proble`mes de microbiologie en meunerie (Microbiological problems in milling). Berghofer et al. 27 – 33.2. 3rd ed. MD. pp. Microbiological quality of flours: sour dough for bakery products and spaghetti.H. Standards Australia. Proceedings of the International Meeting on Food Microbiology and Technology. Examination for specific organisms. 1979. 1766. Richter. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.1. 1991c. Affidabilita` del controllo di qualita` in un’industria molitoria (Reliability of quality control in a flour milling industry). Parpaiola.