South Africans consume more than 100 million litres of ‘loose’ milk a year

On the twentieth World Milk Day on 1 June, a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) day, once again encouraged milk and dairy consumption as part of a daily diet.

Milk1 – milk-pexels

Milk and dairy are important sources of nutrition for many of Africa’s inhabitants yet, in South Africa where more than 1.7 billion litres are produced annually, more than 126 million litres of milk are consumed untreated and unpacked, also known as loose milk, according to BMi Research.

‘Loose milk cannot be guaranteed safe,’ says Stefan Fägerang, MD of Tetra Pak Southern Africa.

Nutritious and delicious

Milk contains nutritional elements, such as calcium and vitamin D, that help bone and teeth development and strength. It contains a lot of water and is excellent for rehydration, which is why athletes favour it as a post-workout drink.

Yet, loose milk, which is poured directly from the milkman’s container into a jar or plastic bag, likely contains harmful bacteria and additives. Just being exposed to light and oxygen either kills some of the nutritional content of milk or fosters growth of pathogens, which are germs harmful to humans.

‘Many people believe that boiling milk sterilises it,’ says Fägerang. ‘But that’s not true. The temperature isn’t high enough to destroy the micro-organisms and bacteria and boiling it for too long destroys the nutrients. That’s why it’s important to use a scientifically-proven process that raises the temperature high enough to kill the pathogens but for a short enough time that the natural product’s nutrients survive intact through the packaging process.’Stefan-fagerang-Tetrapak

Stefan-fagerang-Tetrapak UHT milk

Ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk is heated to between 135 and 140 degrees Celsius for just four seconds before it is immediately cooled. The process takes place in a sealed and commercially-sterile environment.

‘Our carton packs have six layers to keep the product safe during transportation, when it’s on shelves, and once it’s in peoples’ homes. That way it doesn’t come into contact with air or sunlight, which is so important to retaining its nutritional value and keeping harmful germs out,’ says Fägerang.