What Is Pasteurization?

You’ve probably seen the terms “pasteurized” or “ultra-pasteurized” on dairy and juice products before. Maybe you know that pasteurization, named for the French scientist Louis Pasteur, involves heating something to temperatures that kill or inactivate any nasty microorganisms that might be hanging out in your milk or OJ (or, at least, now you do!). But what really happens when something is pasteurized and why is pasteurization important?

  • The most common form of pasteurization involves heating a product to at least 161⁰F for at least fifteen seconds, after which the product is quickly cooled and refrigerated.1, 2
  • In addition to killing harmful pathogens, pasteurization also helps keep foods fresher longer.3
  • Unpasteurized milk, also called raw milk, doesn’t have any scientifically documented health benefits not found in pasteurized milk. In fact, the risk of food-borne illness from unpasteurized milk is 150 times greater than the risk associated with pasteurized milk.4
  • Unpasteurized milk can lead to serious infections from listeria, salmonella, and coli, among others.3
  • The sale of unpasteurized milk for human consumption is illegal in Florida.3

Even the cleanest dairy or juice operation can’t prevent harmful bacteria from contaminating it products at all times. This is why pasteurization is essential for making sure that these products are safe to drink.


  1. “Pasteurization,” International Dairy Foods Association, 2015, http://www.idfa.org/news-views/media-kits/milk/pasteurization
  1. T. Deák, “Pasteurization,” in Encyclopedia of Food Safety, ed. Yasmine Motarjemi, Gerald Moy, and Ewen Todd (Elsevier 2014), 220, http://app.knovel.com/hotlink/toc/id:kpEFS00001/encyclopedia-food-safety/encyclopedia-food-safety
  1. Michelle A. Zitt, Ron Schmidt, and Karla P. Shellnut, Raw Milk: Fact or Fiction, FCS80004, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1295
  2. “Nonpasteurized Disease Outbreaks, 1993–2006,” Centers for Disease Control, December 12, 2014, http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/nonpasteurized-outbreaks.html

Photo credits: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS


Posted: January 4, 2016

Category: Agriculture, Food Safety, SFYL Hot Topic
Tags: Agriculture Hot Topic, Dairy, Microorganisms, Orange Juice, Pasteurization

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