Know the labels on your purchases

Only Greece calls pasteurized milk «fresh milk.’ But what does «fresh» actually mean? Manufacturers say fresh means milk that is minimally processed and sold at retail outlets immediately. But is milk also fresh if it is produced at a farm in northern Greece, packaged in Athens and distributed countrywide? «The ‘fresh’ label is a Greek invention – actually an advertising slogan that has been impossible to eliminate,» said Giorgos Kalatzopoulos, professor emeritus at the Agriculture Ministry’s school of food science and technology. This means it is actually «pasteurized» milk, as it is known in the rest of Europe. However, cartons of «fresh pasteurized milk» often note its freshness, something which Greek dairy firms always note. Nevertheless, according to law, milk acquires its «nationality» in the country in which it is packaged. After all, products travel freely within the EU. «No state service in Greece knows what exactly is imported and from where,» said Kalatzopoulos. In the event that «Greek milk» also contains milk from another European country, there is also the problem of double pasteurization. Milk must be pasteurized before it is exported so it doesn’t spoil. But when it arrives days later in the country where it is to be packaged and sold, it must be pasteurized again. This second pasteurization is actually prohibited because it reduces the milk’s quality. Here is how milk is categorized by law. – »Fresh milk» is the milk from a cow, sheep, goat or buffalo that has not been heated over 40C. – «Pasteurized milk» is that which has been heated to 71.7C for 15 seconds, a process which destroys all the microorganisms, but does not affect the milk’s biochemical composition. This milk may be labeled «fresh.» – «Highly pasteurized milk» is that which has been heated to 85-127C and which is not allowed to be labeled as «fresh» or «pasteurized.» The process brings about small alterations to its physical and chemical properties. – «Long-life milk» has undergone continuous heating and a brief heating at very high temperatures aimed at destroying all the remaining microorganisms. It brings about physical and chemical changes and also destroys some vitamins.