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Milk Pasteurization Explained

Posted Jan 09 2010 4:38am

What do Carmen Electra and Louis Pasteur have in common?
Answer: For their contribution to milk, of course.

The former (Carmen) had the world drooling with that provocative ‘Got Milk’ video and the latter, of course created the milk pasteurization process that ensures safety from contamination by bacteria when we drink milk.

Er… sorry but there’s no pleasing multi-sensory video for the latter but just be happy that you have a safe and healthy protein source (apart from the types you get from cute containers) anyways.

Accidental discovery have played a rather eminent part in scientific experiments (for example, the discovery of X-Rays) the intended application for the process of ‘pasteurization’ was to prevent beer and wine from souring.


So, Louis Pasteur was the man who first introduced the concept of ‘germs’ that we’re so delightfully aware of these days, hence basing his life’s work in minimizing the harmful effect that they have in our lives by causing disease and illness. Apart from building vaccines and making a huge contribution to the field of microbiology through his ‘germ theory’, I believe that ‘pasteurization’ was one of those initiatives to control the influence and growth of these harmful microbial organisms… in this case, bacteria.

To put it simply, pasteurization involves the application of heat at a temperature of 63 degrees Celsius (145 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes, after which it is cooled rapidly and stored at a temperature below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Now what’s important to note is that this procedure is followed, keeping in mind that the overall composition of milk should not be changed. By destroying bacteria that can spoil milk with this process, not only is it safe to consume but can be ideally stored and used over a period of 16 days.

So what happens if we drink milk after the expiration date? Ask Jerry Seinfeld. But I digress…

So, now that we’ve discussed the objectives and the theoretical approach to pasteurization, let’s look at the most popular method used today to create ‘pasteurized’ milk.

And just like all things evolve and people find an improved way of doing stuff, the method by which ‘pasteurization’ is carried out today has evolved into two main methods that have been approved by government food safety agencies namely the United States Department of Agriculture.

These methods are flash pasteurization and Ultra-high temperature processing. In the former procedure, the liquid moves in a controlled, continuous flow while subjected to temperatures of 71.5 °C (160 °F) to 74 °C (165 °F), for about 15 to 30 seconds. This method is known to maintain the color and taste of milk better than any other pasteurization process followed today.

The other process uses the principle of heating it for a short time which is around 1–2 seconds at a temperature exceeding 135°C (275°F), enough to kill harmful bacteria off with a minimal amount time to pasteurize milk. This method increases the shelf-life (in stores, of course) of milk to about 3-6 months until it is opened for consumption.

And now that you‘ve understood the pasteurization of milk along with the knowledge that it is processed by clear and safe regulations (which is all you need to know for now as describing the entire process will be cumbersome and will put you to sleep), feel free to watch that video link of Carmen Electra that I posted… over and over again and just maybe you can wave that condition of lactose intolerance of yours goodbye!

And in a bizarre attempt to give Louis Pasteur some visibility… a ‘Got Germs?’ campaign, maybe?

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