Pasteurization is a process that is used in food preservation, ensuring that foods last longer when bought by consumers and are free from harmful microbes. But what does it mean when a product is gently pasteurized?
If food/drink items have been gently pasteurized, it means that they have been heated to a lower temperature than in the typical pasteurization process, over a longer period of time. The main reason for this is to prevent vitamins and minerals from being destroyed during pasteurization.
Continue reading to learn everything there is to know about gentle pasteurization, including the effects of this process and what kinds of foods are likely to be gently pasteurized.
How Foods are Gently Pasteurized
Foods that are gently or “lightly” pasteurized are usually heated up using metal plates and hot water to increase temperature.
This process is generally longer and of a lower temperature than typical pasteurization processes, such as vat pasteurization or flash pasteurization.
Lower temperatures over a longer time period ensures a light pasteurization method and protects important vitamins/minerals that may otherwise be destroyed through overheating.
The Effects of Gently Pasteurizing
Gently pasteurizing foods will increase their shelf life when packaged and sold to consumers. That said, where the pasteurization process is gentle, it’s likely to only increase the shelf-life of milk, for example, by one or two days. This is a lower shelf life increase than pasteurized milk, which would have an extended shelf life of three to five days due to its pasteurization process.
Other effects of gentle pasteurization include the protection of key vitamins due to the lower heating temperatures/timescales. Examples of this include vitamins C, B12, and folate in milk, which will show decreased levels if typical pasteurizing occurs.
Despite the lower temperature, harmful bacteria will still be killed when gently pasteurizing to reduce the risk of disease/infection.
Foods/Drinks That are Typically Gently Pasteurized
There are many foods/drinks that are typically gently pasteurized, predominantly for preservation reasons. These mainly include milk and juice, as these products are likely to expire quickly if not pasteurized due to the number of raw ingredients contained in these items.
Other foods that can be gently pasteurized include the following:
Benefits of Gently Pasteurizing
The main benefit of gentle pasteurization is that vitamins and minerals are not removed as easily as with typical pasteurization. This is because high levels of heat are applied with standard pasteurization, whereas gentle pasteurization will have lower heating temperatures.
The time and heat are enough in gentle pasteurization that harmful bacteria will be killed, but there won’t be any significant effects on the vitamins that occur naturally in these foods. Some consumers prefer to purchase foods that are gently pasteurized for this reason – to ensure they’re not purchasing a food item with lower levels of essential vitamins.
We’ve put together a short list of frequently asked questions about gently pasteurizing, to provide you with some more information on this practice.
Continue reading to find out more about gentle pasteurization!
Gently pasteurized foods/drinks are safe to eat. Items that have been gently pasteurized will still have been heated at a high enough temperature to ensure that dangerous bacteria are no longer present.
You are therefore very unlikely to become ill after eating gently pasteurized food/drink. It is also likely that your body will absorb more vitamins from foods that have been gently pasteurized, as vitamins are less likely to be removed than with the typical pasteurization process.
Gently pasteurized foods are safe for pregnant people. During the gentle pasteurization process, food/drink is heated up to levels that will kill harmful bacteria, making it safe for those that are currently pregnant/trying to conceive.
When pregnant, unpasteurized foods are often not recommended as there’s a small chance they can contain Listeria bacteria, which can lead to infections causing miscarriage or stillbirth. This is not the case with gently pasteurized food/drink.
Pasteurized foods are generally considered better than unpasteurized foods, as they will hold a much longer shelf-life. They are also less likely to contain harmful bacteria as these are killed off when products are pasteurized.
There is an argument that the longer an item is pasteurized, particularly when using very high temperatures, the more important vitamins and minerals will be affected. Ultimately raw food products will contain the highest amounts of vitamins as these have not been removed by a heating process, however, these food items are likely to breed harmful bacteria more quickly.
The difference between pasteurized and gently pasteurized foods is that gently pasteurized foods will have been heated up at lower temperatures over longer time periods.
Pasteurized foods will have a longer shelf-life than gently pasteurized foods, however, the latter will contain higher levels of vitamins as these won’t have been compromised by the pasteurization process.
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