Mull it Over – Pasteurization and Food Safety


I grabbed a carton of apple cider yesterday while scheming a recipe for cider doughnuts with bourbon cream filling…or a maple frosting…I can’t decide which. (I don’t know what it is about December and doughnuts for me.)  I couldn’t resist cracking open the cider for a steamy sweet mid-morning treat.

Here’s a food science secret to mull over: pasteurization. What does the term mean, exactly? It’s the process of killing harmful bacteria in food by applying heat at a specific temperature for a specific time. The process was invented by Louis Pasteur who was researching how wine spoiled. Pasteur not only discovered that bacteria was responsible for spoilage, but demonstrated a method for controlling the spoilage via heating and cooling. Pasteur contributed a time and temperature at which wine became “pasteurized,” while maintaining flavor. Pasteurization would later go on to preserve quality in many products including cider, beer, vinegar, juices, condiments, and dairy. Today there are different types of pasteurization aiding the food industry – HTST (high temperature, short time) is the type most commonly used. Likewise, different equipment can accomplish pasteurization – plate and frame and tube in tube heat exchangers come to mind.  Without question, pasteurization was a tremendous discovery in the industry as it improves food safety in a variety of products.

Cider stocked on grocery shelves in the US is required to undergo pasteurization (or another processing method) to kill pathogenic microorganisms such as E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella. Ciders sold directly to consumers at farmer’s markets or road-side stands are not required  to be pasteurized.

*Pasteur is often dubbed the “father of microbiology” due to his significant contributions in the area. Any microbiologists out there who want to pipe in on Pasteurization?

A Food Science TidBite: Unless the label expressly notes it’s a pasteurized product, heat cider to 160F before drinking. (When it comes to food safety, better safe than sorry!) 

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