Pasteurization and UHT Treatments

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

In the 1860s, the French chemist Louis Pasteur studied the spoilage of wine and beer and developed a moderate heat treatment that preserved them while minimizing changes in their flavor. It took several decades for pasteurization to catch on in the dairy. Nowadays, in industrial-scale production, it’s a practical necessity. Collecting and pooling milk from many different farms increases the risk that a given batch will be contaminated; and the plumbing and machinery required for the various stages of processing afford many more opportunities for contamination. Pasteurization extends the shelf life of milk by killing pathogenic and spoilage microbes and by inactivating milk enzymes, especially the fat splitters, whose slow but steady activity can make it unpalatable. Pasteurized milk stored below 40°F/5°C should remain drinkable for 10 to 18 days.