Food & Nutrition: Food safety is key when it comes to dairy

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By: Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Benjamin Horn/Flickr

There is just nothing like a good, cold glass of milk. In the United States, the cow furnishes virtually all of the available market for milk. Presently, there is a surplus, which is why there are sales on fresh milk.

Food safety is a big part of milk in the modern dairy and the grocery store. Milk is very perishable due to its nutritive composition and its fluid form. Since milk comes from cows, it provides an ideal medium for bacterial growth. It might undergo many flavor changes unless constantly protected against contamination and adverse environmental conditions.

Quality milk is handled under rigid sanitary conditions resulting in low bacterial count, good flavor and appearance, satisfactory keeping quality, high nutritive value and freedom from disease-producing organisms.

Protecting the quality of milk is a responsibility shared by the dairy farmers, industry public health officials, the processor, grocery store and the consumer. Proper handling of dairy products and open dating are designed to assure consumers of dairy products with a good shelf life, which is the length of time after processing that the product will retain its quality.

The inclusion of a date on milk containers also indicates when it should be withdrawn from retail sale and more useful information. It is used by the industry to reflect the age of packages. It does not indicate the shelf life of products. Generally, a product will remain fresh and usable for several days beyond this “pull date.”

Dairy products are highly perishable; therefore, it is recommended that you observe the following practices to preserve quality and keep the food safe. When it comes to fresh fluid milk, make sure to keep it in the body of the refrigerator, as this is the coldest part. Your refrigerator should be 40 degrees, or a little colder. Also, make sure to keep containers closed to prevent absorption of other food flavors.

When you come home with milk, place the freshest cartons behind those that were already in the fridge. Once you have poured a glass of milk, make sure to put the milk back in the refrigerator. The milk won’t spoil right away, but setting at room temperature will shorten the shelf life.

Adults need two servings a day so the next time you are thirsty or hungry, enjoy a glass of cold milk.

For more recipes and tips from Purdue Extension Educator Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, subscribe to the Food & Nutrition email newsletter.
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