Saturday, November 9, 2013

Making Milk Matter: Reinventing Fluid Milk for Today's Consumer

I was very excited to attend the National Milk Producers Federation and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) Joint Annual Meeting (#JAM13 / #DairyChat / #AgChat) which took place at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, AZ from Nov. 11 - 13.

As I have spent most of my dairy career working on various extended shelf life processing technologies and packaging systems for fluid milk, I was particularly interested to see this statement by Tom Gallagher, the CEO of  DMI in a letter sent to all Annual Meeting attendees, describing the dairy industry's long-term strategy for rejuvenating the category, "As we've sat at the table with dozens of industry leaders, they too have looked at the longer-term issues and have committed to addressing the fundamental inhibitors to and opportunities for growing fluid milk. In the coming years, there will be hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in plant infrastructure renewal, often focused on new extended shelf-life (ESL) and aseptic plant capabilities that will bring the right products to consumers.

Indeed, ESL processed and packaged milk has already begun to play an important role in the dynamics of many dairy markets including the U.S., along with the rapid development of new processing and packaging concepts. However, while thermal processes such as pasteurization, UHT, and sterilization have a long history of use and are well defined by regulators, there is no similar definition of ESL milk products, and the methods that can be used in ESL milk processing operations. 

The lack of clarity in the definition of ESL processing alternatives is what prompted Dr Tatiana Koutchma and I to write an article focusing on various treatments for ESL, and the way in which new non-thermal UV (ultraviolet) treatment can improve the microbiological quality of both raw and pasteurized milk. This article entitled Shelf Life Enhancement Of Milk Products appears in the October issue of the IFT's Food Technology journal. 
The article covers the various types of thermal processing that are available for treatment of milk products to extend storage life of raw and pasteurized milk, as well as  innovative processing technologies such as bactofugation, microfiltration, and turbulent flow UV processing as adjunct treatments before and after pasteurization. 

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