U.S – A recent study conducted by scientists at Cornell University has uncovered higher bacterial counts in commercial, paperboard single-serving milk containers compared to milk packaged in larger containers from the same facilities.

This discovery, published in The Journal of Dairy Science, sheds light on potential hygiene issues in small milk cartons commonly used in schools.

Senior author Nicole Martin, Assistant Research Professor in Dairy Foods Microbiology, highlighted the importance of understanding the microbial content in single-serving paperboard milk containers, especially as they are frequently served in schools where children are major consumers.

The study suggests that carton-filling machinery may contribute to the higher bacterial counts observed post-pasteurization.

Martin Wiedmann, Professor of Food Science, noted changes in milk transportation and delivery to schools, which may impact milk freshness and quality expectations among consumers.

During the study, researchers collected data from four commercial milk processing facilities, focusing on single-serving carton samples of various milk types. They observed higher bacterial counts and slightly lower sensory scores (taste) in the small cartons after seven and 14 days of storage compared to larger containers.

Further investigation revealed that the carton-forming mandrels, crucial in the filling process of single-serving cartons, required more attention and cleaning to mitigate hygiene issues. Due to their complexity, cleaning these machinery parts proved challenging but essential for maintaining milk quality.

Wiedmann highlighted the program’s efforts in improving equipment design and developing standardized cleaning protocols to address hygiene concerns effectively. The study’s findings may lead to enhanced practices in milk processing facilities, ultimately ensuring the freshness and safety of milk products, especially those served to children in schools.

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