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Long-life milk with the good taste of fresh milk

A patented process has been developed that can preserve the gustatory and nutritional qualities of fresh milk while extending its shelf life.  This process is an alternative to the thermal treatment of milk.  The innovation consists in combining two successive homogenisations of fat-containing milk, followed by its microfiltration to eliminate microbial flora.  A license has been granted to an equipment manufacturer for the commercial development of this technology.

Procédé Inra. © INRA, JF
Updated on 03/11/2014
Published on 03/11/2014

France has a long history of consuming milk and dairy products, and an important dairy industry which produces around 23 billion litres of milk each year.  Since the end of the 1960s, the French drinking milk market has been dominated by Ultra High Temperature sterilised milk (UHT; 120-140°C, 2-4 seconds) which can be stored for up to 3 months at room temperature.  There are other treatments that better respect milk quality, such as pasteurisation (72-85°C, 20 seconds), but this pasteurised milk can only be kept for nine days under refrigeration.

Extending the shelf life of pasteurised milk, and guaranteeing the gustatory and nutritional properties of long-life drinking milk by using more environmentally-friendly processes, should make it more attractive to industry, major retailers and consumers. Based on this assumption, scientists in the Joint Research Unit for the Science and Technology of Milk and Eggs (STLO) in Rennes were able to develop a process that meets all these criteria.  The value of the process developed by INRA resides in the fact that microfiltration can now be applied to milk that still contains fats.  To achieve this, the scientists had to face a major challenge: to pass fat through the microfiltration membrane without clogging it.  The invention thus consists in performing two successive homogenisations of the milk which reduce the the size of its fat particles before microfiltration.

The feasibility of this patented process has been demonstrated at a pilot scale by the STLO Milk Platform.  A series of trial runs enabled the production of drinking milk with the taste of fresh milk in which less than 10% of the proteins were denatured by comparison with the initial cows' milk.  This milk can be stored under refrigeration or at room temperature, depending on the technological parameters applied, thus broadening the range of drinking milks available to consumers.  Exploitation of this process could also be extended to the development of baby and follow-on milks, segments that are particularly attached to the high nutritional quality of products.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Christelle LOPEZ (+33 22348 56 17) Joint Research Unit for the Science and Technology of Milk and Eggs (STLO)
Associated Division(s):
Science for Food and Bioproduct Engineering
Associated Centre(s):