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Raw milk, Pasteurized milk or UHT milk?

Last updated on March 19, 2023

There are 3 different options in the consumer’s milk preference; raw milk, pasteurized milk and UHT milk. Where there is more than one option, it is quite natural to compare and choose the best one. However, it is extremely important to have accurate data when making comparisons.

There are quite inaccurate and erroneous data in the comparison of raw milk and packaged milk; It is seen that wrong perceptions and directions are made by some people who state that they are experts.

First of all, it should be noted that the milk of a naturally fed and healthy animal is very valuable and should of course be preferred. But, it is a very optimistic idea to think that all of the raw milk produced is milked from animals with these characteristics.

As it is known, milk is a food that can quickly lose its quality and deteriorate at ambient temperatures. Therefore, even if quality milk is produced, it should be stored in cold conditions after milking and protected from microorganism contamination so that it does not lose its quality.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of farmers do not have much knowledge on issues such as quality milk production and preservation of quality in milk. It should be clearly stated that also the number of people who act maliciously with the greed of making money is not small.

Similarly, the majority of milk consumers do not know milk quality and protection of quality and the consumer is generally content with hearsay information. Sometimes it is subject to the guidance of people who state that they are experts.

The consumer cannot have enough information about the quality of raw milk by looking at the appearance of the milk. For most consumers, not cutting raw milk while boiling is sufficient for the quality of the milk. However, milk quality is not just about acidity.

The consumer can’t have information about whether it contains antibiotics or aflatoxins by looking at milk. He may realize that there is an antibiotic in the milk when the milk can not ferment to the yogurt, but It is unknown to most consumers that this is due to the presence of antibiotics in milk.

When you buy raw milk, you cannot know;

1. How many microorganisms it contains,

2. Whether it will be cut when boiled,

3. Whether it contains antibiotics,

4. Whether it contains aflatoxin,

5. Whether protective chemicals have been added,

6. Whether there is a mammary disease (mastitis) in the milked animal,

7. Whether or not water is added as a trick,

8. You don’t know if some of the fat has been drained.

We accept that both the milk producer and the seller do not cheat and that the producer produces consciously and we buy raw milk. Of course, we have farmers who produce very high-quality and healthy milk.

However, it would be very well-intentioned to think that they are all like that. Researches show us that we should not be too well-intentioned in this regard.

Quality of raw milk sold

In a very recent study published in April 2022, researchers collected 60 raw milk samples from the 9 most densely populated districts of Ankara and investigated these milk samples for antibiotic residues (Mortaş ve ark. 2022)1.

As a result of the research, it was determined that the number of antibiotic residues in 30% of the street milk samples taken in the study exceeded the limits set in the regulation. The presence of antibiotics in milk is worrisome as it may cause health risks as well as contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance.

In another study investigating the quality of raw milk sold in Şanlıurfa in 2017, Göncü et al. examined some chemical and microbiological properties of 60 raw milk samples, 30 each in winter and summer, from different points in Şanlıurfa (Göncü ve ark. 2017)2.

The researchers determined that the fat ratio in winter milk was 3.3% on average and 2.2% in summer milk. These fat rates are quite low for raw milk.

Microbiological analysis results are more interesting; The researchers declared that all 30 winter street milk and 30 summer street milk samples were not found suitable in terms of the total number of aerobic mesophilic bacteria in the Turkish Food Codex Raw and Heat Treated Milk Communiqué.

Similar research examples can be multiplied. However, it is thought that the examples given are sufficient to explain the situation.

UHT and Pasteurized milk

As for UHT and pasteurized milk, it is frequently stated that “the applied industrial process ends the nutritiveness of the milk”, although there are studies. Some commenters claim that these products are “not milk, but white water.”

A very beneficial review on the subject was published by Turkish scientists in 2022 (Kılıç-akyılmaz et al. 2022). In summary; The effect of heat treatment is generally on the minerals, vitamins and proteins of the milk.

Losses in pasteurized milk are considered very small and insignificant compared to UHT milk and raw milk consumed by boiling. In this respect, to state that pasteurized and UHT milk is no longer nutritious is “clearly ignoring scientific data”. Pasteurized and UHT milk can preserve their nutritional values ​​at least as much as raw and boiled milk.

On the other hand, the packaged milk producer requires that the milk meet certain quality criteria when purchasing raw milk from the farmer. Among these criteria, there are criteria such as acidity, microorganism load, presence of antibiotics and aflatoxins, control of water addition and oil extraction.

This situation is a necessity in terms of the processability of milk, preventing economic loss and protecting public health. Therefore, the health and economic loss of the consumer is taken into consideration and guaranteed by the packaged milk producer from the very beginning.

At the beginning of these criteria is the acidity value of milk. Others are criteria such as the presence of antibiotics, protein ratio, fat ratio, presence of aflatoxin and cheating control. In this respect, it can be said that “UHT and pasteurized milk are more reliable”.

Another important issue here is the packaging material. The packaging of UHT and Pasteurized milk can largely prevent the loss of vitamins during storage.

In addition; raw milk can be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of 1 day without boiling. Pasteurized milk, up to 3-4 days in the refrigerator; UHT milk can be stored for up to 4 months if it is not opened.

As for the claim that there are preservatives in pasteurized and UHT milk and therefore they last longer; It should be clearly stated that; These products do not contain any additives or preservatives. The consumer attributes the longevity of UHT milk to the addition of preservatives. However, those who made canned at home know this situation very well.

In canning, the jar is heat-treated; Existing microorganisms die and since it is completely closed, there is no microorganism contamination from the outside. A well-prepared canned can maintain its nutritional value from 6 to 24 months.

The situation is the same with UHT milk; with a good and correct heat treatment, microorganisms are destroyed; Afterwards, it can be stored for a long time without spoiling since it is not contaminated with microorganisms. The logic is the same.

Therefore, saying “UHT milk contains preservatives” is a very erroneous and wrong interpretation. Since the temperature and time norms are applied in the UHT process with minimum damage to the nature of the milk, its nutritional value is also minimally affected.

When it comes to preference, it is more reasonable to prefer pasteurized and UHT milk to raw milk. As for the separation of pasteurized milk and UHT milk; If it is to be consumed immediately after purchase, it would be better to prefer pasteurized milk. However, if it is said that “it is not clear when I will use it at home” (of course, within the expiry date), it would be more reasonable to prefer UHT milk. UHT milk also has a price advantage over pasteurized milk.

UHT is an abbreviation; Ultra-high temperature processing. This process is generally applied at 135-140 oC, 2-4 seconds temperature-time norm. There is a very short-term shock heat application. Subsequently, the milk is rapidly cooled to 4oC.

In pasteurized milk production, there are 3 different temperature-time norms;

Long time pasteurization at low temperature (LTLT, batch pasteurization); 63-65°C, 30 minutes,

Short-term pasteurization at high temperature (HTST, continuous pasteurization); 71-74oC, 40-45 seconds,

Very high temperature pasteurization (ultra pasteurization); 85-90oC, 8-15 seconds

Generally, the HTST norm is used in the industry, which is 40-45 seconds at 71-74oC.

1 Mortaş, Hande, Semra Navruz Varlı, and Saniye Bilici. “Sokak Sütlerinde Gizli Tehlike: Antibiyotik Kalıntısı.” Beslenme ve Diyet Dergisi 50.1 (2022): 19-26.

2 Göncü, B. G., Çelikel, A., Akın, M. B., & Akın, M. S. (2017). Şanlıurfa’da satışa sunulan sokak sütlerinin bazı kimyasal ve mikrobiyolojik özelliklerinin belirlenmesi üzerine bir araştırma. Harran Üniversitesi Mühendislik Dergisi, 2(2), 15-23.

3 Kilic-Akyilmaz, M., Ozer, B., Bulat, T., & Topcu, A. (2022). Effect of heat treatment on micronutrients, fatty acids and some bioactive components of milk. International Dairy Journal, 126, 105231.

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