On this day April 20, 1862

French chemist Louis Pasteur and physiologist Claude Bernard completed the first test on pasteurization.

Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur

Claude Bernard

Claude Bernard

Pasteurization is a process which slows microbial growth in foods. The process was named after its creator, French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur.  The process was originally conceived as a way of preventing wine and beer from souring.

Unlike sterilization, pasteurization is not intended to kill all pathogenic micro-organisms in the food or liquid. Instead, pasteurization aims to reduce the number of viable pathogens so they are unlikely to cause disease (assuming the pasteurization product is refrigerated and consumed before its expiration date).

Commercial-scale sterilization of food is not common because it adversely affects the taste and quality of the product. Certain food products are processed to achieve the state of Commercial sterility.

Pasteurization typically uses temperatures below boiling since at temperatures above the boiling point for milk, casein micelles will irreversibly aggregate (or “curdle“).

There are two main types of pasteurization used today: High Temperature/Short Time (HTST) and Extended Shelf Life (ESL) treatment. Ultra-high temperature (UHT or ultra-heat treated) is also used for milk treatment.

In the HTST process, milk is forced between metal plates or through pipes heated on the outside by hot water, and is heated to 71.7 °C (161 °F) for 15-20 seconds. UHT processing holds the milk at a temperature of 138 °C (280 °F) for a fraction of a second. ESL milk has a microbial filtration step and lower temperatures than HTST. Milk simply labeled “pasteurization ” is usually treated with the HTST method, whereas milk labeled “ultra-pasteurization ” or simply “UHT” has been treated with the UHT method.

Pasteurization methods are usually standardized and controlled by national food safety agencies (such as the USDA in the United States and the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom). These agencies require milk to be HTST pasteurized in order to qualify for the “pasteurization ” label.

There are different standards for different dairy products, depending on the fat content and the intended usage. For example, the pasteurization standards for cream differ from the standards for fluid milk, and the standards for pasteurizing cheese are designed to preserve the phosphatase enzyme, which aids in cutting.


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