Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pasteurization: It Cleans Up Our Milk Supply

Sometimes we forget why we do something that is part of routine, but when we don’t do it, the reason becomes very apparent--like forgetting to put on deodorant one summer morning. Proper pasteurization of milk is something a dairy processor can NEVER afford to forget.

Pasteurization makes our milk supply safe to drink because it makes it clean. Invented by French scientist Louis Pasteur during the 19th century, pasteurization involves heating milk to a specified temperature and holding it there for a predetermined amount of time in order to destroy all pathogenic (harmful) microorganisms, including E. coli 0157:H7, Campylobacter, Listeria and Salmonella. Pasteurization also reduces spoilage microorganisms, and by doing so, prolongs product shelf life.

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With consumers demanding more information about their food, including their desire for clean labels and transparency in raw material sourcing, it is important that dairy processors communicate the reason why milk is pasteurized, and that is to make it CLEAN and SAFE. This includes the milk going into other dairy foods, such as cultured products, ice cream and yogurt.



According to a recent national survey, moms are actively reading food labels in search of nutritious, natural and safe foods for their families. (See graphs, courtesy of "Thought for Food" survey conducted by Chr. Hansen.)


To read a recent column I wrote for Food Business News online on raw material and ingredient traceability, which ties into food safety and clean label, link HERE.



The raw milk controversy
In my eyes, there is no raw milk controversy. Raw milk is unsafe. Final. Finish. Amen.

You would think that when Whole Foods Market stopped selling raw milk in early 2010, consumers would understand that the process of pasteurization does not turn milk into processed food, rather it turns it into food safe for human consumption.

(I am not going to spend much time on the topic of raw milk, but here are some resources in case you are curious.)

Attorney William Marler of the food safety law firm Marler Clark, Seattle, grew up on a farm, milking cows and consuming raw milk in the 1970s. Today when he hears the words raw milk, his mind is drawn to images of children sickened by consuming a product that their parents believed had properties that would be good for their child, not bring them to death’s door.

“I have represented several families of children who purchased raw milk directly from the farmer,” says Marler. “The children came away with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria-mediated Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, months of hospitalization, hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses and millions of dollars in risk of future complications, including end-stage renal disease and the need for multiple kidney transplants.”

You can access a PowerPoint presentation by Marler regarding the legal implications of selling raw milk by linking HERE.

Link HERE to read Marker’s blog on “Risky Business – Why would a retailer sell Raw Milk?”

For additional Raw Milk Facts, including information on states that allow the sale of raw milk, link HERE.

Promoting pasteurization
The idea of promoting pasteurization might sound strange at first, but then it makes sense when you realize you are letting consumers know that you have cleaned their milk of all dangerous microorganisms. It’s a perfect fit for the clean-label trend.

Check out what Whole Foods Market says about pasteurization and raw milk on its website by linking HERE.

There are two basic proven methods of pasteurization. The original, and most common, is referred to as HTST (high temperature/short time). This process involves heating raw milk to 161°F for at least 15 seconds. For a lengthier product shelf life, there’s UHT (ultra-high temperature) pasteurization. This process involves heating raw milk to 280°F for at least 2 seconds.

Interestingly, earlier this week, the Berkeley Wellness newsletter published by the University of California featured an article on low-temperature pasteurized milk. It can be accessed HERE.

The author describes the process as “vat” or “batch” pasteurization, and an acceptable way to pasteurize milk. The process involves heating raw milk in small batches to a lower temperature for a longer time (145°F for 30 minutes) and then rapidly cooling it. This process is said to better preserve the flavor of milk. This approach has become somewhat trendy as more small dairy processors try to appeal to shoppers seeking farm-fresh milk that is clean and safe.

A few weeks ago I made a dairy products innovation presentation to a group of dairy processors in Oregon, a state where farm sales of raw milk are legal, but not retail sales. These processors are real movers and shakers. Sunshine Dairy Foods impressed me with the story it tells on the side of its milk cartons regarding its pasteurization process, most notably, what it calls “Exp. Dates 101.”

This section reads: Don’t judge a milk by its “expiration” date. Sunshine milk isn’t hyper-cooked or over-processed, so it won’t have the latest date on the shelf—just the freshest flavor possible. Trust us, it’s a good trade-off.

This is an attribute that works well for the company’s distribution region. Of course, all pasteurization serves a purpose, and in some cases, this is to ensure safety and quality for longer periods of time, based on distribution and a market’s needs. Food deserts and food banks benefit from long-life milk products, including aseptically packaged milk, which is UHT-processed, packaged in a sterile environment and does not require refrigeration until opened.

Regardless of the pasteurization process your dairy employs, it makes sense to communicate to consumers why it is pasteurized. And again, that is to keep it clean and safe. Make it a point to talk about pasteurization to your consumers in 2015. Be transparent with them. They will be happy to know you have their back.

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