Milk is readily consumed in Pakistan with people usually getting their daily supply from a milk vendor also known as the Doodhwala.
What they don’t realize is that the way it is packaged (usually in large, dirty plastic containers) and transported is a serious health hazard as it is highly likely to contain impurities and watered down. Around 91% of milk consumed in Pakistan is bought from various loose milk vendors while just 9% of all milk consumed in Pakistan is Packaged (either Pasteurized or UHT treated).
A major reason why people don’t go for packaged or UHT treated milk is that because they don’t know what makes it better. Another major reason is the cost involved as compared to buying it from a loose milk vendor is higher, they don’t realize that the added cost in processing the milk, ensures that it is more likely to be safe for consumption.
In the last few months, Punjab Food Authority (PFA), the Supreme Court, and other departments put various food products including milk in the spotlight.
Several oil and milk brands were deemed unfit for consumption due to their unhygienic treatment and packaging. Even though most milk brands were cleared by all authorities to be fit for consumption so much so that the Punjab Food Authority even published a list of approved milk brands that passed all their testing criteria, the public in general is still confused.
This poses the question, where should we buy our milk from if milk brands, as well as traditional milk vendors, are both unsafe?
Thankfully there is a way out of this: UHT treated milk packaged and Tetra Pak packaging.
What makes UHT milk safe? And how is Tetra Pak better than other packaging techniques?
What is UHT and How Does Tetra Pak Help?
UHT stands for ultra-high temperature. During the UHT process milk is heated up to a temperature between 137-140 degrees Celsius for up to 4 seconds, it is then cooled immediately thereby killing off all the bacteria present in the milk. It is then put in a 6-layer Tetra Pak packaging, impervious to light and air, keeping the bacteria out of the milk.
One thing you may have noticed is the expiry date on packaged milk. You may be wondering, how you would know that a certain milk brand expires in 6 months. The reason for this is that despite being impervious to bacteria, the package can’t keep the oxygen out permanently. Trace amounts of oxygen can make it inside the package, which is why an estimated shelf life of 6 months is given to it.
Note that this is for when the milk is sealed, once you open up the pack it can expire within a few hours, just like regular milk thereby proving that it is natural and does not contain chemicals or preservatives.
Nutritional Value Compared to Regular Milk
Another question that may arise is how does it compare with regular milk in terms of nutritional value? There are several tests and checks performed at the point of milk collection to ensure that it meets a certain standard. It all depends on the company selling the milk and how stringent their checks are. PFA’s report about various milk brands can serve as a guide here, informing us about the companies that do meet the necessary health and safety requirements.
The same cannot be said for regular loose milk, which is not packaged properly and may be subject to additional bacteria from the environment. The Punjab Food Authority despite their best efforts cannot check the numerous loose milk vendors across the country so it’s all a guess as to which one is safe and which is not.