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Companies try to market no-spoil milk in the U.S.

December, 1995

From Correspondent Elizabeth Schwartz


ATLANTA (CNN) -- Straight from the farm to your grocer's shelf -- where it can sit for up to six months. This milk won't go bad. It's called shelf-stable or long-life milk, and it doesn't go into the refrigerator until after it's opened.

Seven out of 10 European milk drinkers choose it over regular milk, but shelf-stable milk is relatively new to the United States. And some consumers find it a little strange.

Producers of shelf-stable milk say consumers have nothing to worry about because their product is fresh.

Roger Peroni, an executive at Parmalat, the world's largest producer of shelf-stable milk, says Americans just don't get it.

"They think it must be impossible, it must be an additive, it must be something inside, how can it stay all of a sudden with no refrigeration?" Peroni said.

There is no irradiation or chemicals in shelf-stable milk, and there is only one simple difference with refrigerated milk. When refrigerated milk is pasteurized, it is heated to 170 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria. Shelf-stable milk, on the other hand, is heated to 284 degrees, killing even more of the bacteria that cause milk to spoil.

Although shelf-stable milk is good for several months unopened, once you open it, it becomes just like regular milk. It goes right into the refrigerator, where it is good for about 10 days.

Shelf-stable milk comes in different varieties like chocolate, skim, even milkshakes. Nutritionally, it's about the same as refrigerated milk, but how does it taste?

Amstell Beverages, the makers of Smart Milk, say shelf-stable milk used to have a slightly burnt flavor because of the high pasteurizing temperature, but the company says new technology has made shelf-stable milk taste the same as refrigerated milk.

"There is no taste difference in our process because we use a piece of equipment that minimizes any cook off or burn off," said James Stellmach of Amstell Beverages.

Milk producers say the trick to changing American minds about shelf-stable milk is to find the right marketing campaign. Then, maybe Americans, like Europeans, will start buying milk in six-packs off the shelf.

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