Louis Pasteur and Pasterurization

Louis Pasteur, a French chemist and microbiologist, contributed to the scientific community in many ways in the 72 years of his existence. In 1862, Pasteur, along with Claude Bernard, perfected the modern process of pasteurization. This process involves the heating of a food to a “specific temperature for a definite length of time and then cooling it immediately” (Pasterurization). With advanced technologies and better experimental conditions, his process of pasteurization has received both praise and criticism. Many critics credit him for saving millions of lives through his development of pasteurization and some have also included the process in many blog posts such as “Inventions That Changed The Way We Lived” (Shupe) and “8 Inventions That Made Our Lives Easier”(Free Web Design Tucson). Some scholars also believe that pasteurization prevents the cause of tuberculosis due to its destruction of a bacterium called Mycobacterium Paratuberculosis, and experiments have been carried out to test this theory (Science Direct).

Pasteurization was overall accepted pretty well at the time of Louis. The horrible environment in which cows were forced to live in the 1800s was due to the increased demand of alcohol which left less land available for dairy farms. With less land, many farmers were forced to house cows in whiskey distilleries and due to the convenience of distillery slop, cows’ diets and ultimately their health and milk deteriorated. The milk produced was unfit for the market which led to farmers adding inedible ingredients to better its appearance and taste (Natural Bias). As this practice of “doctoring up” milk became more widespread, tuberculosis also began to spread among the child age part of the population.  A beverage that was meant to build strong bones and promote health in kids, led to increased disease. With Pasteurization, this “swill milk” was no longer like a poisoned apple. By killing germs in the milk by “pasteurizing” it, parents were no longer fearful of losing their children to tuberculosis due to germ-infected milk.

With its high potential to change our world for the better by providing disease-free milk, many studies have been done to test the process. After carrying out many experiments involving the heating of raw milk at different temperatures, using two different methods, one study concluded that if the milk was spiked at greater levels than 100,000 cfu/ml, some Mycobacterium paratuberculosis could survive when treated with high temperatures for a short period of time. When milk for the shelves was tested, some were also found to have living bacteria (Science Direct). With this potential to still be harmful to the consumer, are we sure that pasteurization is the way to go?

While some do credit him for creating a process that has in return bettered our lives and health, others do not feel the same way. Natural Bias also lists multiple disadvantages to pasteurization of milk such as the destruction of “desirable nutrients and microorganisms” that give milk its “health promoting benefits” as well as the undesirable effect pasteurization has on the symbiotic relationship between microbes and humans (Natural Bias). Like a double edged sword, it seems we can’t have it all. Due to the uncertainty of conditions in which milk is produced and packaged today, it’s not hard to believe why people are more willingly to drink less beneficial milk than accidently taking a dose of lethal bacteria due to the laziness of some farmers to keep barns sanitary. An article from Armchair Science suggests that what really needs to be done is for the government to pass strict legislature to make sure that the conditions in which cows are kept are germ-free and raw milk is clean. The author of the article also accuses this process for making Calcium insoluble which can lead to “rickets, bad teeth, and nervous troubles (Raw Milk).” Another article found on Real Milk by Mark McAfee, the CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy accuses pasteurization of killing filthy milk, not creating clean milk (McAfee).

More radical views against pasteurization exist one of which outright calls pasteurization a myth. The author of the webpage claims that “the heating process injures the milk” as well as “destroys milk’s intrinsic germicidal properties (Wellness).” Though this website also claims that Louis Pasteur was a “fraud,” we see that many have mixed feelings about pasteurization. Due to the difference of opinions, whether this process has in actuality made our lives easier or not, it is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

Works Cited

“8 Inventions That Made Our Lives Easier.” Freewebdesigntucson.com. Free Web Design        Tucson. Web. 27 January 2012.

“Louis Pasteur And the Myth of Pasteurization.” Mnwelldir.org. Wellness Directory of Minnesota. Web. 27 January 2012.

McAfee, Mark. “The 15 Things that Milk Pasteurization Kills.” Realmilk.com. Real Milk Articles. Web. 5 February 2012.

“Pasteurization.” Wikipedia.org. Wikipedia. Web. 27 January 2012.

“Raw Milk Vs. Pasteurized Milk.” Realmilk.com. Real Milk Articles. Web. 5 February 2012.

Shupe, Angela. “Inventions That Changed The Way We Live.” Business-opportunities.biz. Business Opportunities. Web. 27 January 2012.

“The Shocking Truth About Raw Milk and Pasteurization.” Naturalbias.com. Natural Bias. Web. 27 January 2012.

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3 responses to “Louis Pasteur and Pasterurization

  1. I enjoyed your post on Louis Pasteur. I’ve definitely heard of him, but never really understood what he did. I thought it was really interesting that there wasn’t enough land for the cows so many were in whiskey distilleries! I’m sure glad he figured out how to pasteurize milk! Not sure where we would be today without that!

  2. I am glad that I read this! I have always heard the name Louis Pateur but never really known what he is known for. Now I do! I think it is great what he has done, of course there is always disadvantages to everything. Like you said its a “double edged sword” but everything usually has both postives and negative to each all that matters is if the positives out do the negatives. In this case I think they do. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. I am studying the dangers of drinking raw milk in my food toxicology class and it was interesting to learn that not everyone approves of pasteurization as a means to rid milk of germs. I never realized there was so much debate over the topic.

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