Back in 1882, famous French scientist Louis Pasteur invented a process called pasteurization that has become widely applied to prevent foods from spoiling. Many items served in your food service business – dairy foods especially – are still pasteurized today. But what does that mean, and what do your food servers need to know about the process?

Here’s a quick overview . . .

What Is Pasteurization?

Pasteurization is not boiling, although there are similarities. When you pasteurize food, you are heating it to a high enough temperature to kill many of the bacteria that will cause food to spoil. Why is this process preferable to boiling food? The simple explanation is that if you boil many foods – especially milk and other dairy products – you will alter their texture and flavor and make them less attractive to eat.

Rule of thumb:  Milk can be pasteurized by heating it to 145ᴼ F for about 30 minutes, or to 161ᴼ for15 seconds.

Where Is the Pasteurization Process Performed?

It is most commonly performed in dairies or companies were food is processed.

What Foods other than Milk Can Be Pasteurized?

Nearly all the eggs sold in America today are pasteurized, as are about 98% of all fruit juices. Certain other foods can be pasteurized as well, including processed meat products, yogurt and even beer.

Are Some Imported Foods Dangerous to Eat Because They Have Not Been Pasteurized?

Some food products that are usually pasteurized prior to sale in the United States are sold and consumed in an unpasteurized state in other countries. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are dangerous to eat or consume, it simply means that foreign countries do not require them to be pasteurized. Thanks to the FDA, it is generally illegal to sell certain classes of unpasteurized foods in the United States. Because you and your food service business cannot obtain those products and sell them, you do not need to be concerned.

Can Some Unpasteurized Products “Sneak By” and Make Your Patrons Ill?

It is possible, though unlikely. If, for example, you prepare certain dishes that contain raw unpasteurized eggs or milk and serve them to your customers, it is possible that your patrons could become ill. That is one reason why your food processing training should teach your employees the basics of safe food preparation and handling.

Can Other Processes Take the Place of Pasteurization?

Yes, they can. When you cook meats, eggs and other foods to correct internal temperatures, you are preparing them safely. In effect, you are “pasteurizing” them. Irradiating foods – a process that is performed in food processing plants – is yet another way to prevent food spoilage and contamination.

Training Is Needed to Protect Your Customers

If you want to protect your customers from the dangers of consuming spoiled food, be sure to check out the Food Safety of America Institute’s Complete Food Handler Training Program.