Due to the fact that probiotic cells need to be alive when they are consumed, culture-based analysis (plate count) is critical in ascertaining the quality (numbers of viable cells) of probiotic products. Since probiotic cells are typically stressed, due to various factors related to their production, processing and formulation, the standard methodology for total plate counts tends to underestimate the cell numbers of these products. Furthermore, products such as microencapsulated cultures require modifications in the release and sampling procedure in order to correctly estimate viable counts. This review examines the enumeration of probiotic bacteria in the following commercial products: powders, microencapsulated cultures, frozen concentrates, capsules, foods and beverages. The parameters which are specifically examined include: sample preparation (rehydration, thawing), dilutions (homogenization, media) and plating (media, incubation) procedures. Recommendations are provided for each of these analytical steps to improve the accuracy of the analysis. Although the recommendations specifically target the analysis of probiotics, many will apply to the analysis of commercial lactic starter cultures used in food fermentations as well.
- viable counts