Pasteurization kills organisms–such as salmonella, listeria, and brucella–that can make you sick or cause food to spoil but opponents argue that it changes foods’ flavor and damages beneficial vitamins and minerals. Meanwhile, the FDA claims the effects on nutrients are negligible. Here are the pros and cons of common types of pasteurization.
Ultra-high temperature (UHT)
Used on: Milk, fruit juices, dairy creamers, cheese sauces, yogurt, wine with less than 14 percent alcohol content
How it’s done: Product is heated to at least 280 degrees for 1-2 seconds. Most common in countries where many residents don’t own refrigerators.
Pros: Cost-effective; minimal changes in color, flavor, and texture; extends shelf life by months.
Cons: Milk can taste “cooked.”
High Temperature Short Time (HTST) or Flash
Used on: Milk, most juices, beer, almonds
How it’s done: Food is heated to 160 degrees for 15 seconds and then rapidly cooled to 40 degrees. Most frequently used for milk in the U.S.
Pros: Pasteurized juices can have shelf lives of up to a year.
Cons: Products require refrigeration; opponents say pasteurizing almonds kills the nut’s ability to sprout.
Used on: Most American-made hard and soft cheeses, yogurt, and buttermilk
How it’s done: Louis Pasteur’s original method heats product to 145 degrees in a large vat for 30 minutes.
Pros: Milk retains flavor.
Cons: Semi-obsolete because of time intensiveness and higher cost.
Used on: Dairy
How it’s done: Dairy is not pasteurized before consumption.
Pros: Creamier; advocates claim it’s tastier and more nutritious.
Cons: Raw milk can contain pathogens such as E. coli; spoils quicker; illegal to sell raw dairy in most states; requires refrigeration.
Used on: Meats, wheat, fruits and vegetables, and spices
How it’s done: Foods are exposed to small amounts of gamma rays.
Pros: Kills insects and pathogens, prevents sprouting, and extends shelf life.
Cons: No proof that irradiated foods are safe for human consumption; surviving organisms could help create pathogenic “super strains.”
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