Research shows consumers often toss out “expired” food items prematurely based on sell-by or expiration dates, contributing to unnecessary food waste.
Creating a new, predictive model to showcase how lower refrigeration temperatures could extend the shelf life of milk, researchers at Cornell University may soon bring an update to “best-by” and “sell-by” dates located on milk cartons.
“Putting dates on milk cartons is a big issue, because consumers often discard the milk if it is past the sell-by date,” said Martin Wiedmann, food safety professor and a senior author of the research. “Often there is little science behind those dates, as they are experience-based guesses. The goal of this research was to put good science to use, reduce food waste and reduce food spoilage.”
While pasteurization significantly lowers the bacteria-count in milk, spore-forming bacteria can survive and germinate. If given the opportunity to grow, the bacteria can cause off-flavors, curdling and will eventually lead to spoiled milk.
“This is a considerable problem. If we can reduce the spoilage from spore-forming bacteria – by reducing their presence and by controlling their outgrowth – we can see the shelf life for milk improve from two weeks to perhaps a month,” said Nicole Martin, research support specialist at Cornell’s New York State Milk Quality Improvement Program laboratory.
One way to reduce the number of bacteria spores is to utilize microfiltration technology. Dairy products like Fairlife and Yoplait’s YQ currently operate on this technology and, subsequently, have longer shelf lives than competitor dairy products.
Another method examines how lower refrigeration temperatures extend milk’s use. The study showed that milk kept at 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit decreased the number of spore-forming bacteria compared to milk kept at 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, only 9 percent of milk half gallons were spoiled after 21 days, compared to 66% of half gallons held at the higher temperature.
With this new predictive model, processors could soon be printing more accurate dates on milk cartons, causing less food spoilage and waste for consumers.
For more on this, click here.