A new technique may work much better at keeping milk fresh longer.
The shelf life of commercially sold milk is three weeks tops, which means that lots of milk goes sour before it’s consumed. In the United Kingdom alone an estimated 330,000 tons of milk goes to waste each year, amounting for 7% of milk produced in the country where milk is among the most wasted food items.
But that will no longer have to be the case, says Naturo, a technology company in Queensland, Australia. The company’s scientists have devised a technique that will allow milk to last for up to two months and that without cooling it. Better yet: the technique, the company says, ensures that “milk retains its natural colour and taste like it’s straight from the cow.”
The company decided to forgo the usual process of pasteurization, a form of heat-treatment that destroys pathogenic microorganisms in milk.
“Pasteurisation is a fairly aggressive process — 72 degrees (Celsius) it is heated to, held there for 15 seconds — and for homogenised milk it’s then further roughly handled, if you like, through a process called homogenization,” CEO Jeff Hastings says. “We don’t do those things.”
Instead, the company has spent five years designing a new process “around a series of existing technologies,” which works better at keeping milk fresh longer. “This is very different from long life milk. Long life is a UHT process, basically milk in a cardboard box,” Hastings notes. “Our technology has a long life but is very much fresh milk. That’s the distinctive difference there.”
He won’t say, however, what that process actually entails so we might have to take their word (and milk) with a pinch of salt, at least for now.
Or maybe not. The government agency Dairy Food Safety Victoria says it has verified that the company’s process achieves the same outcome as pasteurization. “That is, that it’s equivalent to or actually better than pasteurization,” an official notes. “This has the potential to provide a very long shelf life fresh milk product that will allow fresh milk to go to markets that may have been previously unachievable with regular pasteurization.”
The company’s effort to keep milk fresh longer is hardly the only such effort. Recently scientists enlisted a type of bacteria for doing the job. Similar process may soon lead to commercially sold milk that stays fresh for weeks on end so that much less of it ends up being wasted.