Recently, an expectant Mom wrote to us asking if it is OK that she drinks homogenized milk. While homogenized milk is fine to drink when you are pregnant, the more important question is whether the milk is pasteurized. So, then, it begs the question…what’s the difference between the two?
Milk naturally contains fat. It is normal for the fat and the milk to separate – they don’t naturally remain blended. Homogenization is a process that keeps the fat and the milk together (not separated). Otherwise, when you would drink a glass of milk, it would have to be stirred first or you would drink lumps of fat (not too appetizing!). Homogenization is a process where the two parts are able to mix together and stay together.
Pasteurization, on the other hand, is the process where milk (or any other dairy product or even juice) is heated to a point where bacteria are killed. This is very important for pregnant women. It kills the bacteria that could cause a number of infections and potentially harm your baby. Non-pasteurized foods/juice/milk may cause listeriosis, which can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth. You can read more about it on our website and in another blog post.
Now, if you live on a farm or have access to fresh cow’s milk, it will not be homogenized or pasteurized. There is a debate as to whether or not this milk is safe for pregnant women to drink because the argument is that if the cow is healthy and is not fed any antibiotics or hormones, then the milk will be safe to drink. Although this argument seems sound, one would have to be absolutely sure that the cow is absolutely healthy. If you don’t have a crystal ball, how would you know this? It is logical to avoid it all together and simply take the safe route – drink pasteurized milk.
One more thing…there is pasteurized, flash pasteurized and ultra pasteurized. Are they the same? Well, the result is the same (killing bacteria and making it safe to eat or drink), but the method of getting there is slightly different (supposedly). In flash or ultra pasteurized, the heating is done even faster - in a ‘flash”- with the goal to preserve even more taste and freshness of the product than with ordinary pasteurization. Whether or not this happens, we can’t really say. We can say that any of these pasteurization methods are fine. You might want to read the fact sheet that the American Dietetic Association endorses called Debunking Dairy Food Myths (just scroll down to click on the PDF).
So, now you can go ahead and drink your juice and milk with confidence. But just remember, if it’s not pasteurized, don’t drink it.