An Australian company called Naturo has revealed the development of a breakthrough milk processing technique that is heat-free, eliminates more pathogens than pasteurization, and leaves the milk with a refrigerated shelf life of up to 90 days, opening up the product to new markets, such as those that currently rely on UHT milk.
Until the broad implementation of milk pasteurization in the early 20th century, the commonly consumed food product was actually incredibly dangerous. Regularly packed with harmful microbes and bacteria, the process of pasteurization, involving slow heating at 60° C (140° F) for 20 minutes, was found to eliminate the majority of those life-threatening contaminants and increase the product's shelf life up to several weeks.
In the 1960s more aggressive milk processing techniques, such as ultra-heat treatment (UHT), were developed, and when combined with sterile packaging techniques, could result in unrefrigerated milk keeping for up to nine months. UHT milk, while convenient for many, undeniably tastes quite different from fresh milk and the more forceful pasteurization process has been found to alter the product's protein structure and reduce its nutritional content. There is still substantial debate over how significantly the common, more gentle, pasteurization process can alter the nutritional content of milk, however, the contaminated dangers of raw milk still persist.
Naturo's latest announcement almost seem too good to be true, with its new process claiming to be heat-free, yet able to eliminate more pathogens from the milk than pasteurization. It is also claimed the process retains higher levels of several vitamins and enzymes that are destroyed during a conventional pasteurization process. On top of all of that, Naturo says its milk has a minimum refrigerated shelf life of anywhere from 60 to 90 days. Regular pasteurization, on the other hand, only extends the life of milk to between two and three weeks.
Exactly what Naturo's process entails is unclear at this point. In an interview with Australia's public broadcaster, CEO Jeff Hastings says the process harnesses, "a series of existing technologies." Exactly what those existing technologies are hasn't been revealed, but may involve Naturo's previous major innovation, a machine that utilizes air pressure to prevent cut avocados from turning brown and eliminates any pathogens introduced through the process of cutting the fruit.
Another Australian company, Made by Cow, presented a cold-pressure approach to processing milk back in 2016. It was claimed the process was as safe as heat pasteurization, with a final product closer to the texture and nutritional content of raw milk. Made by Cow's product doesn't stay fresh for the many months that Naturo is claiming.
Despite the ambitious claims and the oblique process, Hastings says his company has worked for over two years with independent scientists and regulatory bodies in Australia to validate the process. Dairy Food Safety Victoria, a government authority that monitors safety standards, is reported to have validated Naturo's claims, saying, "it's equivalent to or actually better than pasteurization".
The company's first goal is to push Australian milk exports into new territories. The extended shelf life of Naturo milk allows for more cost-effective shipping of fresh milk to countries that otherwise would only have access to UHT products or expensive air-freighted milk.
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