Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ultra Pasteurization-- Why "Ultra"?

Pasteurization is the process of heating something to a certain temperature to kill micro-organisms and extend shelf life. Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist, was responsible for developing this method in the late 1800's. This was an important breakthrough because it was the beginning of understanding bacteria and disease. At this time, there was a need for decreasing these harmful organisms, as food borne illness was rampant. One of the biggest reasons contributing to this widespread illness was filthy dairies. The idea of sanitation and germs being linked with disease was just beginning to be understood. Populations and food production were increasing and food was traveling farther to reach people. Pasteurization decreased the food borne illness and extended shelf life for food en route, but did nothing to motivate dairies to clean up and operate under more sanitary conditions. With the public feeling safe with their new "sterile" milk there was no push for changing farming practices. Bigger, faster production was the theme, and that continues today.

I could make a case for raw milk here and discuss eliminating the entire pasteurization process, but the pasteurization campaign has been so strong, raw milk is illegal in most states. The fact is that clean raw milk from disease free cows, processed in clean dairies is perfectly safe and very healthy. However, since most of the population buys pasteurized milk that's the topic I'll stick to.

As micro-organisms began to survive the pasteurization process and an even longer shelf life was desirable for farmers, the ultra pasteurization process (also known as UHT- ultra high temperatures) became commonplace. The process heats milk to a whopping 280 degrees at least. We must first understand that although killing harmful bacteria can be beneficial, pasteurizing in this way kills every micro-organism, even the helpful ones. As we saw in the early 1900's and today, with organisms surviving stronger antibiotics, the pasteurization process etc, the bugs continue to win. We continue to find ways to kill them instead of addressing the underlying problems and this viscous cycle continues.

Ultra pasteurized milk does not curdle, you can't make cheese or yogurt from it. It tastes....well...blah- sort of flat, cooked, almost stale. Go ahead, have a milk challenge (I dare you to add in raw milk to that taste test)!! Ultra pasteurization destroys more nutrients than the regular pasteurization process.

Here's the nitty-gritty health reasons--

~ Calcium: Phosphates are needed for calcium absorption in the body.
UHT destroys all phosphates.

~ UHT destroys lipase, an important enzyme used to help the body
break down and absorb fat soluble vitamins like A & D. (this is why
milk is fortified with Vit D)

~ Vitamins B6 and B12 are destroyed in this pasteurization process

~ UHT alters delicate animo acid configurations and changes the
balanced proteins making them react differently in the body.

~ Along with making absorption of vitamins and minerals difficult, UHT
milk is also deficient in vitamins. The process diminishes vitamins
A, D and C by upwards of 50%.

~ Destroying all bacteria disrupts the natural balance. The good
bacteria are there to help keep the bad bacteria in check. Small
amounts of "bad" bacteria are good for us. Destroying all bacteria
weakens our immunity and creates stronger next generation bugs--
because they do evolve.

~ When packaged under aseptic techniques UHT milk is stable at room
temperature for up to 6 months!!!! That doesn't seem right.
Are we creating milk Twinkies?

Ultra pasteurized milk is less healthy than pasteurized milk which is less healthy than raw milk.
This process give false security of "clean" milk allowing dirty farming practices to continue.

I say drink less milk and get your calcium from dark leafy greens!!!
But when choosing pasteurized milk, don't reach for the UHT/ultra pasteurized labeled milk!