Dairy Milk: Pasteurization and Homogenization

What is Pasteurization?

According to the CDC, pasteurization is “the process of heating milk or other liquids to destroy microorganisms that can cause disease or spoilage.” Pasteurization kills 95-99% of pathogenic bacteria in milk. What about the other 1 to 4%? On the typical dairy farm, un-pasteurized milk can be a source of Tuberculosis, Diptheria, Salmonellosis, Typhoid Fever, Undulant Fever, Q Fever, and Listeria. Pasteurization is also a handy way to increase the shelf life of refrigerated milk. The FDA requires that all packaged or bottled milk shipped interstate be pasteurized.

What Could be Wrong with Pasteurization?

Now there’s a controversial question. A few typical responses are:

  • It allows otherwise “unfit” milk to be given to the general public.
  • It strips away many of the essential vitamins..
  • It destroys “beneficial” bacteria, leaving behind small amounts of dangerous bacteria and germs, which are now free to multiply.
  • Its introduction can be directly correlated with an increase in the incidence of heart disease.
  • It alters the nutrients in milk, creating more “allergies”

Although few recent studies are available regarding pasteurization and disease, it is well proven that pasteurization destroys and alters many beneficial nutrients. Not to mention, the dairy farmers are blessed with more relaxed regulations on their sanitary practices and the quality of milk they use, as it is assumed that the pasteurization will take care of things.

What is Homogenization?

Homogenization is really just “pretty packaging.” Natural milk separates, leaving skim milk on the bottom and cream on top that can be easily skimmed off, similar to coconut milk. The westernized palate looked down on this type of presentation, so the food industry responded with homogenization to give milk that consistent creamy look. Homogenized milk has been processed to break up the milk fat globules and disperse them evenly throughout the milk, creating a “uniform” product. Wait a minute… milk is actually a processed food? Sad, but true, the milk as we see it in the refrigerated section is a far cry from natural or raw milk.

It Does Look Better, What’s the Harm?

It doesn’t take a heart surgeon to point out (although a good one will) that whole foods are a much better choice than processed foods. Processing destroys healthy vitamins and minerals and actually alters the state of many nutrients in a way that is not fully understood. Homogenization showed up on the scene around the same time as pasteurization and therefore many physicians believe it too may be linked to the increased incidence of high cholesterol and heart disease. Homogenized milk has also been accused of harboring more casein and whey proteins. A potential factor in the substantial rise in milk allergies.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  2. Milk & Milk Products, Ch.11, Clark Ford, Ph.D; Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University
  3. US Department of Agriculture
  4. Whick Do You Choose?, The Weston A. Price Foundation
  5. Website: www.glutenfreeda.com/glossary.asp
  6. Milk Homogenization and Heart Disease, By Mary G. Enig, PhD
  7. The Book Homogenized by Nicholas Samsidis, MS

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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