The dilemma of boiling or not boiling our favourite Indian drink, milk, has crossed many of us. With new technology coming in every second day, it is scary for us to let go of our ancient practices. It is this debate of what our parents followed and what we need to follow that let us to this pertinent question – Should we boil milk or not?
What is pasteurization?
A method invented in the 19th century, pasteurization involves heating milk to an extremely high temperature and then quickly cooling it before it goes for packaging or bottling. This helps keep the milk fresh. The method of pasteurization is best to kill bacteria present in milk which can be harmful for us. Dangerous bacteria such as salmonella can affect our health in more ways than one.
Milk is heated upto 161.6 Fahrenheit for 15 seconds and then immediately cooled. This process is known as high temperature short time pasteurization, which is the most common method used across India and many parts of the world.
Will boiling pasteurized milk help?
While India is used to the tradition of boiling fresh dairy milk, experts feel that this practice has lingered on even with the newly packaged pasteurized milk. Professor Saurabh Gupta, Food Cooperation of India (FCI) says, “When we are heating milk to such a high temperature during pasteurization, we are increasing its shelf life. If we boil this milk further, we end up lessening its shelf life.”
According to Dr Saurabh Arora, founder, food safety helpline.com, there is no need to boil pasteurized milk at all. “As it has already been given heat treatment during pasteurization, milk is microbe free. Therefore, there is no need to boil this milk further, which was ideally the reason why people started boiling dairy milk in the first place.”
The newly packaged pasteurized milk is now fortified with the added benefits of many vitamins. If we boil pasteurized milk, we end up diminishing its nutritive value. “When it is done at an industrial level, the process is called flash pasteurization, which reduces the total degradation of milk. But when we boil the same milk at home, we end up wiping out its nutritive value because we do it at a lower temperature for a prolonged period of time. This causes a heat loss effect,” says Dr Arora.
The common misconception of boiling even pasteurized milk is due to two reasons, firstly, since it is inbuilt in our system, consuming milk straight out of a tetra pack or plastic pack does not seem right to many and secondly, it is falsely believed that the shelf life of ‘boiled’ milk is more.
“Pasteurized milk can be stored at less than 4 degree Celsius for atleast seven days. If you boil this milk, you are only lessening this time period. The nutritive value of simple pasteurized packeted milk and tetra-pack milk is comparable. Boiling them will only damage their nutritive value,” says Dr Anil Kumar, assistant professor, department of food science and technology, GB Pant university.