Does UHT milk contain preservatives? Can this innovative technology for long-term preservation of milk (UHT) be real without adding preservatives?

In the absence of bacteria activity and because of packaging pre-sterilisation, the milk becomes less perishable: through ultra-pasteurisation, the validity period of food is prolonged without adding preservatives. The temperatures lie beyond the boiling point (135 - 150° C) and the boiling time is very short (2-4 seconds). This very short stage of heating followed by a sudden cooling destroys bacteria and microorganisms and ensures the preservation of vitamins and nutrients, unlike the normal boiling of raw milk, which doesn’t destroy all germs, destroying instead its vitamins and nutrients. 

What does the UHT technology mean exactly and why don’t all companies have the same validity term for Tetra Pak packed UHT milk?

UHT comes for “Ultra High Temperature” and means rapid heating (2-4 seconds) at a temperature of 135-150°C, followed by a sudden cooling and packaging in aseptic environment (free from germs and oxygen). An optimal nutritional value is maintained because of the very short heating time. In the absence of microbial activity and stopping oxygen and light from penetrating, the milk will be fresh for a longer period of time. The validity period varies between 3-6 months, depending on the quality of the raw milk collected from farms (deriving from hygiene during milking alongside handling and storing conditions until the moment of reception in the factory).

The numbers on the Tetra Pak box represent the amount of times the milk was reprocessed?

No, not at all, because milk is not reprocessed. That number refers to the number of the roll on which the packaging material is printed; the printing equipment in Tetra Pak factories usually has five rolls and in some factories even six rolls. The numbers (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) are printed in Tetra Pak factories and then the material is delivered to the client. Should this material report a functional damage, it is necessary to identify the roll on which the packaging material was printed, in order to communicate it to Tetra Pak and correct it.

Why should we consume UHT milk?

Ultra-pasteurised milk is safest for consumption because it is heated for 2-4 seconds at a temperature of 135 - 150 °C, then quickly cooled and packed in an aseptic environment (free from germs and oxygen). Germs and bacteria are thus destroyed, while nutrients and vitamins are preserved. The validity period varies between 3-6 months, depending on the quality of the raw milk collected from farms (deriving from hygiene during milking alongside handling and storing conditions until the moment of reception in the factory). Unlike UHT milk, unpasteurised milk is less safe for consumption because through its slow boiling process, for example on a stove, it only loses part of its germs but most of its vitamins and nutrients.

Is unprocessed milk better than the one available in stores?

Untreated milk can contain a series of pathogens which can seriously damage our health (tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio, typhoid fever and other diseases). Cows can carry organisms which are dangerous for humans, often without developing any special symptom.

Does unprocessed milk have more vitamins than the one available in stores?

Vitamins react to the duration of thermal treatment, not to the temperature. By boiling the milk at home at a temperature of 100 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, most of the vitamins are destroyed. In the factory the thermal treatment lasts for only 2-4 seconds (it is actually a heat shock), which leads to a minimal loss (10%) of milk vitamins (B12, B2, A).

UHT milk is more expensive than unpasteurised milk. Why should we consume a more expensive milk?

Scientific studies proved that processed and packed milk is safer for consumption and best preserves vitamins, a piece of information helping consumers make safer choices concerning their nutrition. Unprocessed/raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria which are not destroyed during boiling. Moreover, the boiling destroys most nutrients in milk. Processed and packed milk, which is safest for consumption and preserves vitamins, needs standard procedures and time for processing and distribution. It also requires investments for the best scientific technology and a continuous support of research and preservation methods. This is why it is sold at a different price than unprocessed milk.

What about the long validity term on the milk box? Is that milk healthy with such a long validity term after being produced?

UHT milk is a natural and hygienic product, which is preferred over pasteurised milk in countries like Germany, Spain, France or Italy.

(Reference: same answer as in question 1)

Is UHT milk recommended for children aged 1 and older?

Generally pediatricians agree to introducing cow’s milk into children's’ nutrition after the age of 1.

After unsealing the UHT milk box, does the milk still maintain its characteristics? At what temperature should it be kept and most of all how many days after opening can it be consumed?

UHT milk maintains its characteristics after unsealing the box. It is recommended that the milk be kept refrigerated after unsealing and be consumed within the next 3 days.

 Why is it safe to consume packaged milk, even if it wasn’t boiled?

Packaged milk underwent delicate thermal procedures which, at the same time, make it safe for consumption and best preserve its vitamins.

Generally, this is a complex procedure, in accordance with European Union standards and consists of a double check of the milk at the collection center, in order to evaluate its quality, and of a sanitary and hygiene procedure, which guarantees that the product is safe for consumption and a very good drink for the consumer.

If we boil milk from the household (unprocessed and unpackaged) once or twice, doesn’t it become safe for consumption?

Milk loses most of its nutrients during boiling. Moreover, unprocessed milk can contain dangerous bacteria which are not destroyed during boiling.

If you care about the health of your family you should drink packaged milk, which is safest for consumption and best preserves vitamins. Processed and packaged milk underwent sanitary and veterinary controls and was checked several times in the course of the distribution process.

Don’t you think it is better to consume raw milk and help our body to fight the germs?

Raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria which are not destroyed during boiling.

The European Union, the Ministry of Health, the National Society of Family Medicine, APRIL (Romanian Dairy Industry Employers’ Association) and other authorities and associations around the world support awareness campaigns which recommend the consumption of processed and packaged milk as the safest choice for milk consumers, because it best preserves vitamins.

How come no cases of illnesses caused by the consumption of unprocessed and unpackaged milk were reported?

This depends entirely on luck, considering the scientific studies which demonstrate that unprocessed milk can contain dangerous bacteria, which cannot be destroyed during the normal boiling process. Moreover, the boiling process destroys all nutrients in the milk.

This is why the European Union imposed standards for the milk production and distribution, suggesting that processed and packaged milk is safest for consumption and ensures the best vitamin protection. The Ministry of Health, the National Society for Family Medicine and APRIL support this campaigns that aim to inform public opinion on the most recent developments. 

What Is the Tetra Pak Packaging Made of?

Tetra Pak packaging is made only of the cardboard and polyethylene layer (both on the outside and on the inside), in which case it is used for pasteurised milk. For UHT milk another special packaging material is used, which contains aluminum foil in the middle. Thus the packaging maintains the contents and the milk properties intact for the entire validity period of the product, because it impedes germs and light from penetrating the package (it is a known fact milk changes some of its properties in contact with ambient light).

Aluminum is dangerous for our health and causes cancer. The UHT milk packaging also contains aluminum. Doesn’t aluminum affect milk characteristics?

Aluminum doesn’t get into contact with the food product because the inner part of the package is covered with a layer of polyethylene for the food industry.

Where does the name of TETRA PAK packaging come from and what does it mean?

TETRA comes from tetrahedron - the first package had the shape of a pyramid or a tetrahedron. PAK comes from PACK. 

Isn’t Tetra Pak packaging contributing to environmental pollution with its content of plastic and aluminum?

Tetra Pak packagings have the shape of a tetrahedron (the Tetra-Pak system where cardboard is obtained from bleached kraft paper, doubled on the inner side with polyethylene) and comply with packaging standards. Producing these packaging from complex materials means several layers of different materials need to be laminated. Each layer of material serves a special function within the product. The Tetra Pak company was the first to adopt the concept of reducing the quantity of material used during fabrication.

  • Cardboard from recycled paper is the main ingredient of the complex packaging material, making these hard and resistant.
  • Polyethylene makes up 15-20% of the cardboard’s weight and, although being up to 10 microns thick, ensures impermeability against microorganisms and moisture, protecting the packed product and helps binding the materials together.
  • Aluminum is used as an up to 9 microns thick foil, representing only 5% of the cardboard weight in case of aseptic packaging when the product requires a higher protection from oxygen and the packed product can be stored without being refrigerated, thus saving energy.
* source: Tetra Pak Romania