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Aseptic Packaging of Grade A Dairy Products I

Food Science Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48823

Abstract Processors of dairy products have shown

Some new concepts will probably evolve increased interest in extending shelf life. l~etail-
from UHT-AP processing and packaging ers and consumers also appreciate the benefits
methods. Future plants will probably be derived from improved keeping quality of per-
designed to restrict personnel and supply ishable food products. A longer shelf life would
traffic in critical processing and filling probably increase the size of the distribution
areas. There is a good possibility that the area, reduce the delivery frequency, lower retail-
filling area will be at least partially iso- ing costs in stores and vending machines, afford
lated from the rest of the plant. This area longer production runs on a given product and
would be constructed to provide more than reduce product losses.
normal protection, thus guarding against Although terminology and labeling of dairy
product recontamination. Filtered air sup- products given a sterilization treatment and
plying pressurized rooms for aseptic pack- packaged aseptically has varied, this discussion
aging will undoubtedly be commonplace in refers to the practice of heating a product to
new plant design. 140.6 to 148.9 C (285 to 300 F) for 2.5 to
Aseptic packaging machines are being 8.0 seconds. The method includes packaging
developed with greater capacities and im- the product in a container which has been given
proved performance, to provide more confi- a sterilizing treatment and filled and sealed
dence in achieving aseptic filling. under aseptic conditions. Very rapid heating
Dairy farmers supplying milk for UHT and cooling is the usual procedure. Packaging
treatment must continue to produce high- takes place in an atmosphere of steam, sterile
quality raw milk. Raw milk will be evalu- air, or gas. The treatment is sometimes referred
ated in part on spore count, which will be to as "commercial sterilization." Sometimes the
included in the criteria for determining term "long life" is given these products. For
quality. The industry and regulatory agen- this discussion the terms ultra-high temperature
cies should develop labeling uniformity (UHT) treatment and aspetic packaging (AP)
which would give consideration to terminol- will be used.
ogy for UHT-AP products. One industry European processors have taken the leader-
leader has cautioned against possible "over- ship in the development and adoption of UHT-
regulation" in the production and distribu- AP methods. Italy leads with about 50 plants
tion of UHT-AP products which could in operation in 1968. Germany reports about
inhibit the full potential benefits from the 12 processing plants and France seven. Eng-
method. Some products such as whipping land, Sweden, Russia, Australia, Japan, and
cream, coffee whiteners, and certain fla- a few others also have UHT-AP processing
vored products can be processed by high- operations. It is estimated that the United
temperature methods. In general, however, States has aproximately 70 plants using this
Americans prefer normal pasteurized milk, method for dairy products. Most of the plants
because it does not have the cooked flavor in the United States package in metal contain-
which occurs with the UHT method. Many ers utilizing the Dole system. The majority of
observers, nevertheless, believe that UHT- the foreign operations use the laminated paper
AP processing and packaging will expand. container to reduce cost. Tetra Pak equipment
As new equipment is developed processors has been employed to the largest extent in the
will likely become increasingly interested in
European operations. However, the United
including UHT-AP methods in the develop-
States has made considerable progress in the
ment and marketing of new products also.
development and acceptance of a semirigid
paperboard plastic foil carton.
1 Presented at the Sixty-fourth Annual Meeting Tolerable Spoilage
of the American Dairy Science Association, U~i-
versity of Minnesota, Minneapolis, June, 1969. Researchers and processors studying UHT-
112 J O U R N A L OF D A I R Y S C I E N C E

A P operations for several years have attempted should be made to ensure that the equipment
to develop acceptable guidelines for tolerable is functioning correctly. Distribution practices
spoilage. Workers at the National Institute for should be similar to those of products given
Research in Dairying at Reading, England (2) usual pasteurization, at least during the intro-
have suggested that the spoilage of one carton ductory period. Samples should be retained
in 1,000 when held at room temperature two to in adequate numbers to provide guidelines on
three weeks would be acceptable. Because of equipment performance. On certain occasions
the extremely low bacteria counts normally prev- the product could be held for aproximately ten
alent it is somewhat difficult to establish tol- days before shipping to make certain that ade-
erable standards. In actual practice variable quate sterility has been achieved.
results may occur from day to day relative to The temperature drop test as suggested by
shelf life until effective operating procedures Ashton (1) may be conducted to determine
are established. There are few published data the minimum heat treatment necessary to achieve
on spoilage for U H T - A P dairy products. Cor- sterility. This test may be useful in the early
respondence from Australia indicates that prod- stages of placing a U t t T system in operation.
ucts from commercial operations will usually H e suggests operating the unit at 143.3 to
have unsatisfactory flavor after three months. 148.9 C (290 to 300 F ) initially and dropping
Reports from Switzerland indicate that uperized the temperature in five-degree decrements to
milk heated to 150 C (302 F ) for 2.4 seconds 126.7 C (260 F ) . A t each temperature, collect
has a shelf life of about three months in foil 250 samples, incubate 125 of them at 22 C
cartons and about six months in metal cans. (71.6 F ) and the other half at 37 C (98.6 F ) .
They also report somewhat longer shelf life Examine the samples held at 37 C daily for
in aluminum containers than in other types of ten days and every day for 15 days for those
metal cans. The experience of one plant in held at 22 C. Spoilage indicates the minimum
Switzerland indicates that two to three weeks processing temperature, and a safety margin
of shelf life can be obtained in plain plastic- of 2.8 C (5 F ) should be added. Agreement is
coated paperboard cartons. needed on three series of test trials with tests
A report from Italy indicates that uperized repeated every three months. Hedrick (3)
milk packaged in double plastic aluminum foil found that incubating samples at 31.7 C (89 F )
Tetra Pak containers had a shelf life of 30 days was the most critical of the temperatures used,
when held at temperatures ranging from 20 to including 21.1, 31.7, 35, and 45 C (70, 89, 95,
55 C (68 to 131 F ) . F o u r samples out of 1,228 and 113 F ) .
were spoiled after one month of storage. The The need for incubating samples to determine
Danish Research Institute (6) has done exten- shelf life was also emphasized by Speck and
sive studies on the keeping quality of U H T - Busta (7). They reported that determining bac-
treated milk packaged aseptically in various teria counts using the plate method was too
types of packaging materials using a Tetra Pak cumbersome unless the samples were incubated.
machine. Out of 290,000 cartons filled, 15,000 Techniques used in determining bacteria counts
were sampled and 180 of the samples were found on U H T - A P - t r e a t e d products are very impor-
to be nonsterile or visibly defective following a tant. I t is suggested that a clean laboratory
short period of storage. Two different sterilizers bench flooded with sterile filtered air be avail-
were used for processing the products. During able for the technician.
some of the test trials malfunctioning of the Keeping an accurate set of records is ex-
equipment was observed, making it difficult to tremely important for U H T - A P operations.
ascertain the source of contamination. Equipment perfornmnce data, time, tempera-
Others have also indicated difficulties in iso- ture charts, and sampling information are useful
lating the source of contamination of U H T - in evaluating defects in a given production run
treated products. Inconsistency may occur in at a later time.
making test runs from one day to the next with
commercial-size equipment operating for short Quality of Raw M|ik
periods. Hedriek (3) suggests sampling once A dairy farmer supplying milk to a processor
every hour during the processing and filling utilizing U t t T - A P methods likely would not
operation. This procedure would not only pro- experience any relaxation imposed on him rel-
vide information regarding the source of con- ative to maintaining sanitation and quality
tamination but also variations during produc- standards. The spore count becomes more im-
tion. portant in evaluating raw milk quality for this
I n placing the U H T - A P system on stream type plant. Since heat-resistant spores are most
in a commercial operation adequate test trials difficult to kill, their presence in high numbers

would be significant. Because temperature in- to avoid contamination of the thermoplastic

fluences spore germination, storing U H T - A P container during forming, flling, and sealing.
products at refrigerated temperatures is rec- F o r economic and other reasons considerable
ommended for extending keeping quality, in- emphasis has been placed on the development
cluding the preservation of desirable physical of laminates of paperboard, plastic, and alumi-
characteristics and flavor stability. num foil. This material is being formed in
Studies using the Bactofuge 2 for spore re- rectangular as well as in the more common
moval before U H T treatment showed no signifi- tetrahedron shape. European-made equipment
cant effect when processing high-quality raw generally utilizes a large roll of the laminate,
milk. Perhaps with very poor quality raw milk, which is formed into a tube and filled without
containing a high spore count, some significant entrapping air and sealed with heated jaws.
improvement would be detectable when utilizing Packages known as Tetra Brik and Self Pack
the Bactofuge before the U H T treatment. are formed into rectangular shapes. I t has been
demonstrated that the rectangular packages
Aseptic Packages and Equi,pment may be accumulated and enclosed with an over-
The choice of a package for packaging U H T - wrap permitting storage to as high as five
A P Grade A dairy products would depend on layers.
several factors including cost, sales appeal, con- The typical 5-ply laminate material of a
sumer acceptance, weight, space required, shape, seiairigid plastic foil container from the interior
protection against contamination, product char- surface outward would be polyethylene, alumi-
acteristics, need for returnable cases, etc. I f a num foil, polyethylene, paperboard, and poly-
processor expands his marketing area over many ethylene. The Pure P a k carton is available with
states, it would be advantageous to use a one- the cut edge sealed to better control vapor trans-
way overwrap or nonreturnable case for the mission. Injecting ethylene oxide gas into the
packages. Containers shipped in nonreturn- p a p e r shipping carton at a concentration of
able cases would have a major advantage in about 320 ppm helps ensure virtually sterile
distribution costs. Most processors shipping carton blanks to the user. The ethylene oxide
great distances place packages in nonreturnable gradually dissipates during shipment or storage
corrugated cardboard or some type of over- over a period of one week to about 1 ppm.
wrap. Choices available to the processor for Various chemicals have been used to sanitize
aseptic packaging operations include metal cans, the product contact surface of the container.
glass containers, semirigid plastic p a p e r foil Chlorine has been used; however, hydrogen
containers, flexible plastic containers, plastic peroxide seems to be the favored sanitizer at
form-fill-seal containers, and blow-molded plas- the present time. Hydrogen peroxide is con-
tic bottles. Metal cans filled by the Dole process verted to water and oxygen, resulting in an
are the most eomumn in use in the United States. effective sanitizer. During operation the pack-
This equipment has proven satisfactory in com- age material is drawn through a hydrogen per-
mercial production for several products. Super- oxide bath at 80 C (176 F ) or the sanitizer may
heated steam is the sterilizing agent for the can. be sprayed or fogged on the critical surfaces.
Filling occurs in a steam chamber at atmo- The package material is exposed to tempera-
spheric pressure which maintains the sterile tures of approximately 232.2 to 315.6 C (450 to
environment. 600 F ) , which achieves the sterilizing effect and
Considerable work has been done at the Na- dissipates any hydrogen peroxide present. The
tional Institute of Research for Dairying in Pure Pak machine employs a fogging system to
England on filling glass containers aseptically. inject hydrogen peroxide into the carton at a
Some new and improved models of glass fillers rate of approximately 0.1 to 0.2 ml p e r quart
were displayed at the European Dairy Show in carton. Excess hydrogen peroxide is conducted
June, ]969. from the machine with an expeller fan for oper-
Form-fill-seal equipment has been modified ator comfort.
and will probably be used more in the dairy and Attempting to convert most regular fillers
food industry. Acceptability has been demon- in the United States to aseptic units in the field
strated on smaller-size eontainers such as is generally not recommended.
creamers. Current models form-fill and seal
nine or 16 creamers p e r cycle. Typical of all
Blow-Mold Plastic Bottles
aseptic units, the machine is carefully shrouded
I n Germany, a unique method of blow mold-
2 Centrifugal machine designed to remove micro- ing plastic containers and filling them aseptically
organisms from milk. while still in the mold has been developed. Rela-

tively low capacity machines are now available with carefully filtered air which results in the
in the United States, with larger machines so-called "clean room."
being designed. Because the plastic material
must be heated to about 232.2 C (450 F ) for
blow molding, it is sterilized, an inherent advan- Costs
tage of the unit. Maintaining a sterile environ- Costs involved in sterilizing and aseptic pack-
ment around the filling nozzle to avoid con- aging utilizing the Pure Pak carton were stud-
tamination during filling and top sealing of the ied by H o r a n and I-Iedrick (5). Estimated
blow-molded container is obviously still neces- processing and sterilization costs for milk before
sary. Some of the blow-mold aseptic units are packaging amounted to 0.76 cent per quart.
being tested in the United States. The capacity Labor, utilities, depreciation, taxes, interest, and
of the unit depends, in part, upon the size of miscellaneous costs were included. The aseptic
the container and the number of blow-mold packaging cost was 3.71 cents, resulting in a
heads on the machine. Quart-size packages nor- total plant charge of 4.47 cents p e r quart. W i t h
really can be formed at a rate of six or seven raw milk valued at $6.25 p e r hundredweight and
p e r minute. A blow-mold machine has also been 3.15 cents per quart estimated for delivery re-
developed in Switzerland. sults in a total of 21.02 cents per quart. The
package itself is about twice that of a standard
plastic paperboard container because of the
Sanitation incorporation of aluminum foil and an addi-
Most of the present models of aseptic fillers tional layer of polyethylene.
cannot be completely cleaned in place. Gener-
ally, some dismantling is necessary and parts are
cleaned in a wash vat. One of the nmnufactur- Distribution
ers of form-fill, seal equipment suggests an inter- The quality of U H T - A P products is extended
esting method of assembling the critical filler by refrigeration temperatures. Studies con-
parts to ensure sterility. The procedure basi- ducted by Herreid (4) indicate that U H T milk
cally is as follows: treated at 146.1 to 148.9 C (295 to 300 F ) had
1. Before assembling, place the parts in boil- a flavor score immediately after processing of
ing water for 10 minutes. about 37.5 to 38. This milk when held at 4.4 C
2. W e a r plastic gloves when handling the (40 F ) for one week had a score of 39, whereas
parts. Rinse the filler bowl with 100 p p m when held at 21.1 C (70 F ) the score dropped
of chlorine, flood with hot water, and again to 37 and declined to 36 when held at 37.8 C
rinse with 100 p p m chlorine solution. (100 F ) . The development of other defects
3. Steam the unit at 5 to 6 psi so the tem- related to the physical characteristics of the
perature reaches at least 104.4 C (220 F ) , product is also affected by temperature. Higher
and maintain until sterility is achieved. temperatures during distribution and storage
accelerate deterioration, e.g., the formation of
A p p l y i n g heat usually as steam is the most a fat layer on the product, discoloration, and
common method for sterilizing lines, vessels, gelation. Handling practices similar to those
and filling equipment. Gaskets and other parts used for normal pasteurized products are sug-
must have the ability to withstand sterilizing gested for U H T - A P products. Refrigeration
temperatures. Silicone is one of the materials should be used at the processing plant, in mar-
found to be satisfactory. Thermocouples are keting channels, and in the home. The advan-
useful for indicating the temperature of the tages of U H T - A P are that the product has the
shrouding or block surrounding the filling cham- keeping quality to withstand more heat shock,
bers. It is important to observe the maximum permitting the processor to distribute over a
temperature reached during sterilizing proce- wider area and with fewer returned products.
dures so that corrections can be made if neces-
Most aseptic fillers are designed to control References
the filling environment around the package, pro- (1) Ashton, T. R. 1966. Control methods applied
viding effective protection against contaminating to aseptic milk production. Dairy Industry,
microorganisms. The systems employ sterilized 31: 6.
air, obtained either by heating or with high- (2) Burton, H. 1965. Ultra high temperature
efficiency filters. The area around the carton processing and aseptic packaging in the
is given the most protection; however, in some dairy industry--Its basic principles and
operations the entire filling room is provided developments. J. Soc. Dairy Technol., 18: 2.

(3) Hedrick, T. I. 1969. Personal communica- of milk sterilization and aseptic packaging
tion. Michigan State University, East Lan- in paper cartons. Amer. Dairy Rev., 30: 7.
sing. (6) Mann, E. J. 1969. Aseptic packaging of
(4) Herreid, E. O. 1965. New facts concerning milk and milk products. Dairy Industry,
the physical, chemical and storage stability 34: 1.
of sterilized milk and cream. Proc. Milk (7) Speck, M. L., and F. F. Busta. 1968. Steri-
Ind. Found. 58th Ann. Meet., Montreal, lization and aseptic packaging of milk
Canada. products--microbiologlcal trends. J. Dairy
(5) Horan, J., and T. I. Hedrick. 1968. Costs Sci., 51 : 1146.


Reappointment of Editorial Board Members

The new policy of Journal Management The Editors of the Journal of Dairy Science
changed appointments of the Editorial Board and other members of the Journal Manage-
membership to a 3-year term with one re- ment Committee are sincerely grateful for the
newal for a maximum additional 3 years, if excellent review service these individuals have
the Journal Management Committee and the performed. Each of these men has given ex-
individual both agree. The following have cellent service on the Editorial Board for at
willingly agreed to a reappointment: least five years and has consented to serve
for another term of 1 to 3 years. Their re-
Dr. C. C. Baleh, NIRD, England
Dr. R, E. Brown, Univ. of Illinois views have contributed to the internationally
Dr. J. R. Brunner, MSU, Michigan recognized quality of the Journal of Dairy
Science publications. ADSA members are en-
Dr. Olaf Claesson, IHUOV, Sweden
Dr. G. Loftus Hills, CSIRO, Australia couraged to personally express appreciation
Dr. 0. W. K a u f m a n n , NCUIH, Ohio for the dedicated assistance of these Board
Dr. F. A. Kummerow, Univ. of Illinois members.
Dr. W. A. MeGillivray, DRI, New Zealand
Dr. T. A. J. Payens, NIZO, Netherlands
Dr. E. W. Swanson, Univ. of Tennessee T. I. Hedriek, Ghairman
Dr. T. Tsugo, Univ. of Tokyo, J a p a n Journal Management Committee